Biogelx tumor model for chemotherapy testing.


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Interview with Africa Galvez-Flores, Marie Sklodowska-Curie Researcher

Africa has been with Biogelx ten months. She is our resident cell-biology researcher. She is working on the development of realistic 3D cancer models using Biogelx proprietary peptide hydrogel technology. These models will be used to test the delivery and effectiveness of bio-orthogonal catalytic systems for the treatment of cancer as part of the Theracat Project. In this interview, Africa talks about her research project and the results she has achieved so far.

Why is it so important to use synthetic 3D-scaffold in your research? 

Synthetic 3D scaffolds are simple and reproducible, features which are essential for the creation of a reliable drug testing platform. Remarkably, Biogelx hydrogels can be easily tuned to meet the requirements of any cell type by controlling stiffness alone and/or additionally incorporating specific biomimetic peptide sequences. Stiffness is important in cancer research, as it is known that tumoral tissue is stiffer than the equivalent healthy tissue. This determines tumoral cell signaling and therefore drug response or resistance.

Do you use functionalised or un-functionalised hydrogels in your research?

I’ve been doing preliminary screen experiments with both un-functionalised and functionalised hydrogels to see what is the most appropriate hydrogel for the specific cell line I’m initially using in this project.

What cell-lines do you use to develop the 3D cancer model?

I’m currently working with the MCF7 human breast cancer cell line and will provide a comparable healthy 3D model with non-tumorigenic MCF10a breast epithelium cells. I would also like to extend my work to the MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell line, which has been shown to be highly invasive and would provide further insight into the assessment of the new-developed bio-orthogonal chemotherapies. Apart from this, I’ve been doing some other preliminary experiments with immortalized human fibroblasts. The data obtained in these last experiments might be useful to study the possibility of creating an advanced 3D model involving different breast cell types.

What results have you achieved so far?

Through extensive imaging I have evidenced the viability, clustering and correct cell morphology of MCF7s seeded on Biogelx™-RGD hydrogels at early time points (1 to 3 days in culture). This was shown at low to high cell densities and low to medium stiffness hydrogels.

What are the next steps in your research?

The next immediate step will be proving that cells are physiologically functional in my models; this will be achieved through typical molecular biology techniques, such as quantitative PCR. As I said, the study will be extended to 3D culture of MCF10a cells for the creation of comparable healthy breast tissue. The developed healthy and cancerous tissue 3D models will be used to test the effectiveness of both traditional and newly-developed bio-orthogonal chemotherapies and compare the outputs to those of conventional 2D cancer models. In the long-term, I will provide some insight into the capability of Biogelx hydrogels to act as drug nanocarriers themselves. Next steps in my research will allow me to carry out my work at one of the international partnering institutions that are part of the THERACAT consortium, allowing me to transfer knowledge on state-of-the art techniques in the field back into Biogelx™. I feel more than excited about it!

Where can our audience meet you in person in the future?

I have been travelling a lot to exchange my knowledge with my THERACAT colleagues and other industry researchers in recent months. The next event I will be attending and presenting my work at is the Goodbye Flat Biology conference in Berlin, Germany on 10-13th November. I look forward to meeting the cancer research community there.

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