Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Artificial Reality

Synthetic hydrogel creates a realistic environment to grow and drug-test tumour and tissue organoids

09 November 2021

Artificial Reality

A sportsperson who only trains in perfect controlled conditions might struggle to replicate their form in the hectic environment of real competition. A similar mismatch can occur when scientists investigate the biology of human disease in cells in their lab, but observe different results when the myriad other factors interfere with similar cells in the body. Researchers aiming to improve their artificial test environments have developed hydrogels in which pancreatic cells and tumours can grow in the lab. Unlike previous gels, this entirely synthetic substance can be precisely replicated to allow more consistent experimentation. It successfully sustained pancreatic organoids – miniature organ replicas – and tumours derived from mouse (pictured) or human patient cells, as well as supporting common surrounding cells from the immune system (green and orange), meaning it gives a good proxy for the human body and provides an arena to test new cancer drugs in a realistic environment.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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