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Cancer cells grown around bioengineered microfibres make an ideal model to test new chemotherapy drugs

The habitat that cells live and grow in has been recreated using a mixture of self-assembling peptides and natural proteins.1 This synthetic matrix was then used to grow cancer spheroids, which could be used to test new anticancer treatments.

The process was extremely simple. A team led by Alvaro Mata, from the University of Nottingham, UK, mixed all the ingredients with the cells and watched the magic happen. ‘Self-assembling peptides have an amphiphilic structure, they quickly arrange themselves forming long fibres resembling those that hold cells together,’ explains Mata. The team used the exact same proteins found around natural tumours, such as keratin and fibronectin. ‘We used these peptides to co-assemble with proteins found in the natural tumour, creating a tuneable composite biomaterial that mimics molecular and structural features of the extracellular matrix,’ he adds.

 

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