Scientists at a Heriot-Watt University plan to 3D print tumor-like constructs to better understand the biology of malignant brain tumors that kill around 5,000 people each year in the UK.
Dr. Nicholas Leslie, a tumor biologist at the University’s Institute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering is working with Dr. Will Shu, a 3D printing expert to carry out the pioneering work, which has just been funded by The Brain Tumor Charity.
Researchers have already developed several types of “brain tumor in a laboratory” to study brain tumors and test drugs to treat them, including taking brain tumor stem cells from patients. However, if they are grown in the lab, they behave very differently from the way they do in reality.
Now the Heriot-Watt team will 3D print brain tumor (glioma) stem cells and other types of cells isolated from patients’ brain tumors, to recreate tumor-like constructs which should give much closer results to human tumors and reduce the current dependence on animal testing.
Dr. Nicholas Leslie said “We have developed a novel 3D printing technique to print brain tumor cells for the first time, cells that continue to grow rapidly, more closely mimicking the growth of these aggressive tumors in real life.
“Our goal is that this should provide a new way of testing drugs to treat brain tumors, leading to new treatments and speeding up the process by which new drugs become available to patients.”