LLNL scientists have paired 3D-printed, living human brain vasculature with advanced computational flow simulations to better understand tumor cell attachment …
Cancer is one of the most prevalent
and devastating diseases
humanity has ever faced and is one
we continue to struggle with today
and see cancer isn't actually
just one disease.
It's more of an umbrella and there are
many different types of cancers that
have different essential mechanisms.
We still have so much more to understand
about the way
different cancers grow and especially
how they spread
but scientists at Lawrence Livermore and
our industry and university partners
have now paired
3D bioprinting and computer modeling
to take us one step further.
One of the scarier things that can
happen with a cancer diagnosis is called
That means that the cancer cells have
spread from their place of origin
to a new place. Our body's network of
blood vessels is called our
vasculature and one of the main ways
cancer can spread is that the cancer
cells are transported away from the
original tumor
through your bloodstream where they
eventually attach to a vessel wall.
From here the cancer cells pass through
that blood vessel wall into the tissue
where they grow kind of like a seed in soil.
Usually in areas like forks in those blood
vessels and while we have
figured out a lot
about how some of this process works
we still actually know very little about
especially how physics plays
into it. Like, the flow
of blood through a vessel is a
three-dimensional process.
One that's been very difficult to
replicate in a lab setting
until now. Think about it when we analyze
the way a fluid moves through a
biological material
we have to consider a bunch of things
like the rate of flow
and other fluid dynamics. The geometry of
that vasculature and how all of this
affects the spread
of cancer cells which have their own
physics to consider like
shape, elasticity, etc and replicating and
more specifically
measuring all of this in a lab setting
is really tricky.
But Monica Moya and her team here at
LLNL have found a great way to explore
it. They are 3D printing vasculature.
That's 3D printing like this but instead
of plastic
they're printing with live cells.
Actual human tissue called endothelial
cerebral cells. That means these are the
cells that line the blood vessels
in your brain. These cells are printed
into a device that forms them
into channels where they can simulate
the formation of blood vessels and then
we can introduce
fluid flow and if that wasn't cool
enough the researchers can then add
breast cancer cells to this cell-seeded
device to see where the tumor cells go
and how and when they attach
to vessel walls. This is a 3D printed
vasculature system
that you have complete control over it's
totally wild
but that's not all because the team then
compared their data about the cancer
cells and their behavior within this
to a computational model see lifelike
lab bench versions of biological
processes like these are called
in vitro models while the computer
is called an in silico model which I
think is pretty funny
and a computational modeling team at
Duke University integrated
LLNL's in vitro data into their computer
model of this process
just to make sure we have the most
accurate and up-to-date biological
measurements to work with
in that computer model and with the
computer model we can see levels of
detail that we just can't in the in vitro model
and plus an in silico model allows you
to turn variables on
and off. Things like the elasticity of
the cells or certain aspects of the
fluid flow
and then see what happens in response
to those changes.
That's not very easy or fast to do
in a lab setting. The researchers think
this combination in vitro
in silico approach
could help them separate
what parts of the metastatic
seeding process for cancer cells are
more biologically influenced versus
physically influenced which could
eventually help us predict how
and where tumors will spread
which in turn
can enable targeted screening
of high-risk patients
and therapeutic intervention aimed at
the most vulnerable areas of the body.
This exciting interdisciplinary approach
can be useful for all sorts of
other investigations too like finding
out how some surgical interventions
might work in response to
brain aneurysms or
simulating how blood clotting might
respond to aneurysm treatment.
The possibilities are kind of
endless and are endlessly exciting.
If this video blew your mind
then make sure
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If you have questions about this work or
other work we do then leave them for us
in the comments and as always
thanks so much for watching.
I'll see you next time.

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