Researchers from the University of Fukui, Japan, have used high-density nanofibers that mimic the microenvironment of the brain and are capable of capturing cancerous cells, paving the way for novel therapeutic solutions.
Our body doesn’t really fix cells — instead, it heals injuries by replacing the damaged cells with new ones. To do this, lots of cells have to be moved from one place to another, a process called cell migration. The problem is that sometimes, abnormal cells can also be migrated from place to place, and this is often how cancerous cells spread to different places of the body.
To make matters even worse, preventing these cells from moving around through regular approaches (like radiotherapy or chemotherapy) is dangerous and can have serious adverse effects. This is where the new study comes in.
“Cell migration is an essential bioprocess that occurs during wound healing and tissue regeneration. Abnormal cell migration is observed in various pathologies, including cancer metastasis. In the present study, a platform based on electrospun nanofibers with a consistent alignment and controlled density was designed to inhibit cell migration,” the researchers write in the study.
The authors of the new study figured out that cell migration is directed by the structure and geometry of something called the “extracellular matrix” — a three-dimensional network consisting of extracellular molecules such as collagen, enzymes, glycoproteins, and minerals that provide structural and biochemical support to surrounding cells. Think of it as a ‘skeleton’ or scaffolding that offers support to the surrounding cells.
This extracellular matrix consists of many fibrous structures, and it is through these structures that cells migrate. If one could somehow create a similar structure (but with a custom geometry), they could exert some control over the migration process.
“We fabricated a nanofibrous sheet in which the fiber density changes from end to end gradually using a technique called ‘electrospinning’ and carried out a culture experiment of brain tumor cells,” says Dr. Satoshi Fujita, who headed the study.
Researchers experimented with different types of electrospun nanofibers. They found that the denser the structures were, the more cell migration was hampered. When researchers arranged the fibers in a high-to-low density configuration, they were able to restrict the movement of cells in the high-density zone; meanwhile, the opposite configuration encouraged migration.
Although it’s still early days, researchers are confident that this technique could lay the groundwork for new approaches in dealing with cancer.
“It is available for the design of scaffolding materials, which are the basis of regenerative medicine, in combination with various fiber processing technologies and material surface treatment technologies. This could lead to the development of practical applications of regenerative medicines,” speculates Dr. Fujita, “In addition, it can be used as a processing technology for culture carriers for efficient production of biological drugs including proteins, antibodies, and vaccines.”
The study has been published in the journal Applied Bio Materials.