Lab-grown models of brain tumour microenvironment reveals role of different cell types in boosting cancer stem cell activity
Like a city’s sewers safely harbouring the monster’s eggs at the climax of a disaster film, primed for chaos in the inevitable sequel, there’s a cosy nook inside certain tumours where a pool of cancerous stem cells lurk, refuelling the cancer even after initial treatment. In glioblastomas, aggressive brain cancers, the perivascular niche is this safe haven. Past research has been unable to pinpoint how cells of the niche support the stem cells, but researchers have developed a new platform for testing. Their model includes lining cells (endothelium) and neural support cells (astrocytes). In experiments, all three cell types flourished, and the stem cells (red) released characteristic markers of activity (green), showing the platform was a useful proxy for real-world tumours. Further study showed the endothelial cells and astrocytes boosted cancer stem cell invasiveness and persistence, and showed the platform’s potential for deeper interrogation and future treatment development.
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