Scientists at Rice University in Houston have used 3D printing to create porous, bone-like scaffolds that can be used to study bone cancer tumors. They have determined that the tiny holes within our bones have a significant effect on how cancerous cells operate and spread. Led by bioengineer Antonios Mikos, the scientists used a 3D printed scaffold to see how Ewing’s sarcoma (bone cancer) cells respond to stimuli such as shear stress. They discovered that the size and shape of pores, as well as overall scaffold porosity, had an impact on how cancer cells are able to spread throughout bone.
According to Mikos, the 3D printed polymer bone scaffold contains artificial pores that constrain the flow of fluid and apply shear stress to tumor cells. By varying the 3D printed scaffold architecture and pore structure, he and his team were able to change the environment through which fluids flow, as well as the magnitude of shear stress. The scientists believe that this model could be vital for finding out more about bone cancer and potential treatments:
“We aim to develop tumor models that can capture the complexity of tumors in vitro and can be used for drug testing, thus providing a platform for drug development while reducing the associated cost,” Mikos said.
The Rice researchers say that using a 3D printed scaffold gives a much more realistic picture of bone structure and cell behavior than using cells in a flat petri dish. After 3D printing each flat section of the scaffold with pores in one of three sizes (0.2, 0.6 and 1 mm), the researchers could stack the layers to form a scaffold, before seeding them with tumor cells. A flow perfusion reactor was then used to mimic the push and pull of fluids and tissues in a biological environment.