3D models could aid both cancer and corona treatments
A reconstructed 3D skin model could pave the way for skin cancer diagnostics without the use of animal testing or clinical samples.
Researchers at Biofilms Research Center for Biointerfaces have grown cells in order to build a model of the skin in 3D that is as close to the real thing as possible. With this ‘cultured skin’, it could be possible to evaluate how skin cancer develops.
Cancer is important to detect early, before it spreads. Therefore, we study molecules that can get through the skin before the cells actually develop into cancer cells.
By inducing skin cancer in the cultured tissue and studying the cells' early response, the researchers hope to find new ways to make an early diagnosis.
“We have succeeded in creating a model that corresponds to the outermost layer of skin — the epidermis — which we provoke with different substances or UV light. We investigate whether the skin morphology changes, and study inflammatory responses that may be related to cancer development,” says senior lecturer Anna Gustafsson.
When the skin is provoked, the skin cells can secrete small molecules, such as amino acids, which can be unique for a change when skin cells are transformed into cancer cells.
“Cancer is important to detect early, before it spreads. Therefore, we study molecules that can get through the skin before the cells actually develop into cancer cells. In the best case, we should be able to detect whether it will develop into cancer or not,” says Gustafsson.
The researchers are continuing to develop the cultured skin model to build a complete model as possible.
“At present, we only have two types of skin cells in our model. We want to add more cell types. Maybe a cancer cell at an early stage, and preferably immune cells,” says Gustafsson.
A project involving several research groups are collaborating to study the new coronavirus pathway of infection on cultured airway cells. This is where the skin model comes in - the model may also be useful for understanding how to build a 3D model for studying how the coronavirus attacks cells in the airways.
“By finding out how the coronavirus' binding proteins interact with and bind to the receptors of the respiratory cells, we can also investigate different ways to prevent infection, for example with antibodies,” says Professor Anette Gjörloff Wingren.
There is already some knowledge in the research world about how it is believed that the coronavirus will mutate. In the future, there are plans to grow viral proteins according to this new knowledge and predict how a mutated coronavirus binds to the cells. In this way, the researchers hope to be able to stay one step ahead and develop protection for future infections.
Text: Hanna Svederborn