A desktop FFF 3D printer has been applied to cancer researcher at the University of Girona, Spain. Challenged with finding suitable treatments for triple negative breast cancer in this latest research, scientists have proven that PLA is a suitable material for hosting cancer cells cultures. This in turn opens up the relatively niche means of studying cancer cells, which is crucial to discovering possible cures.
Teresa Puig, director of the Oncology Unit at Girona, explains, “A tumor is made up of many types of cells, and these are the cells we have in low proportions. Therefore, it is complicated to locate these cells within the tumor. This new system is cleaner, allowing us to work more directly with these types of cells later,”
“We still do not know how to treat them, but we have found a way to isolate them.”
3D printing a microenvironment
In the Girona experiment a BCN3D Sigma 3D printer, from Barcelona manufacturer BCN3D Technologies, is used to make cell scaffolds. Commonly used in 3D bioprinting studies, “This structure,” as described by Griona’s Dr. Joaquim de Ciurana, “is a mesh that, on the basis of a series of parameters such as porosities, spaces, and the distance between one element and another, is ultimately able to allow cells to stick to the matrix or not.” When “stuck” to the matrix, close to the natural cell structure in the body, the cells enrich/grow creating new tissue.
With the triple negative breast cancer cells the goal was to enrich the cells as much as possible to create a lifelike microenvironment.
A victory for PLA
Made from white PLA, also provided by BCN3D Technologies, the researchers tried a variety of different 3D printing parameters. After tests with live cells, the optimal print settings for cell growth along a designated scaffold were determined as follows:
– 0.2 mm layer height
– 70% infill density
– Zigzag infill pattern
– 45° infill direction
– 100% flow
In addition to being the best for this PLA scaffold, the team observed that the material 3D printing in this was “was capable of enhancing a ALDH+ [cancer] cell population compared to 2D cell culture.”
“In conclusion,” they add, “the data obtained endorse the PLA porous scaffold as useful for culturing breast cancer cells in a microenvironment similar to in vivo and increasing the numbers of breast cancer stem cells.”
By realizing this possibility on a desktop FFF 3D printer, the lab also gives other scientists a new, low cost, method of producing custom cell scaffolds for such research. The next step is to test the cultures with potential treatments.
The study featured in this article, “Screening of Additive Manufactured Scaffolds Designs for Triple Negative Breast Cancer 3D Cell Culture and Stem-Like Expansion,” can be read online in The International Journal of Molecular Sciences. This work was undertaken at the University of Girona by Emma Polonio-Alcalá, Marc Rabionet, Antonio J. Guerra, Marc Yeste, Joaquim Ciurana, and Teresa Puig.
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Featured image shows 3D printed PLA scaffolds. Photo via BCN3D/University of Girona