2 min readResearchers Develop High Throughput Paper-Based Arrays of 3D Tumour Models

Abu Dhabi, UAE — By engineering common filter papers, similar to coffee filters, a team of NYU Abu Dhabi researchers have created high throughput arrays of miniaturized 3D tumour models to replicate key aspects of tumour physiology, which are absent in traditional drug testing platforms. With the new paper-based technology, the formed tumour models can be safely cryopreserved and stored for prolonged periods for on-demand drug testing use. These cryopreservable tumour models could provide the pharmaceutical industry with an easy and low cost method for investigating the outcomes of drug efficacy, potentially bolstering personalized medicine. The developed technology can be transferred to other trending therapeutic applications such as measuring tumour response to drug concentration gradients, studying cancer cell signalling pathways, and investigations of invasive tumours. 

The findings were published in the flagship journal, Lab on a Chip. The findings build on the team’s earlier research engineering the paper platforms.

Led by Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering at NYUAD Mohammad A. Qasaimeh, the researchers sought to develop 3D tumour models because they offer great potential for understanding the fundamental mechanisms governing tumour responses to drug treatments, and provide opportunities to develop a number of emerging therapeutic applications. Currently, most pre-clinical drug screening is conducted on simplified two-dimensional (2D) monolayers of cell culture which do not fully represent the complexity of human tissues and organs. 

Existing methods for developing 3D cell cultures and tumour models are laborious, technically challenging, time consuming, and do not allow cryopreservation for future use. This contributes to high attrition rates in the drug development process, and can cause significant delays to market and major financial losses to companies. 

“Our work presents a paper patterning method for high throughput cell culture, cryopreservation, and drug testing of 3D tumour models. This technology is very promising to provide unparalleled advantages to the fields of drug discovery, tissue engineering, and personalized medicine,” said Qasaimeh, the Principal Investigator of the Laboratory and the study leader. 

By testing cisplatin (a typical chemotherapeutic drug) on breast cancer 3D models generated within the developed platform, they were able to prove that their technology is capable of predicting the outcomes of drug efficacy. Breast cancer is considered the most frequently diagnosed cancer in more than 80 percent worldwide. In the USA more than 10 percent of women are reported to develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lives, and in the UAE, breast cancer is considered the most common malignancy based on incidence and mortality.

“Our reliable, easy-to-prepare, and inexpensive method is for creating high throughput paper-based arrays of 3D tumour models that will bring us one step closer to biomimetic drug screening in the pre-clinical stages,” said Bisan Samara, the first author and a former research assistant in Qasaimeh’s lab.

This research is an advancement of the team’s earlier work published last year in the journal Advanced Biosystems, in which they established their new technique utilizing filter paper to cryopreserve human cells, offering scientists an efficient alternative to conventional, long-term cryopreservation methods.

Article adapted from a New York University news release.

Publication: Cryopreservable arrays of paper-based 3D tumour models for high throughput drug screening. Samara, B et al. Lab on a Chip (February 02, 2021): Click here to view.

Breast Cancer, tumour model

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