A new dimension for cell culture (w/ Video)

June 25, 2012

Cancer cells and stem cells can now be cultivated in 3 dimensions to serve in various experiments to great advantage for researchers. This matrix, commercialized by the start-up QGel, which is based in the scientific park at Ecublens, offers the cells a similar environment to a living organism and is adaptable to the needs of the researcher. The new company received the Vigier Prize on Thursday, which comes with a cash sum of 100,000 francs.

The basic substance resembles a gel, but it is in fact a biocompatible and to which different such as collagen or growth factors can be added. This substance, produced in Jura, is presented as a small flask containing dehydrated gel to which water must be added. One can then reproduce the extracellular matrix in which live inside organisms. Contrary to the traditional , where cells form a simple layer, studies have shown that with this substance, the cells grow and assimilate just as they do in their natural environment.

Cultivating cells in such an environment facilitates the study of potential medications in conditions similar to cells in vivo. For example, we know that when a tumor grows, its oxygen levels decrease. The matrix developed by the start-up allows one to reproduce such phenomena among others, which make the efficiency of the active substance vary, thus yielding more realistic conditions. The growing longevity of the cells cultivated in vitro inside the gel also allows the researcher to add the medication being tested at different intervals in order to study its impact according to the moment when it is used. This allows for the exclusion of superfluous molecules during the very first phases of the test.

The system developed by QGel allows for new tests of anti-cancer medication and novel experimentation in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

It’s the that confers the specific properties to the tissues. The secret to the welfare of cells lies in the creation of a custom-built and ideal environment. Growth factors, proteins, peptides or other components can be added to the gel. In the case of , for instance, it is possible to add molecules that indicate which tissue, nerve or vessel they must form and which direction they must grow.

“Research in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering, as well as the development of new medication, should gain in speed and reliability,” explains Matthias Lütolf, professor of stem cell bioengineering and co-founder of the start-up with Colin Sactuary, CEO. A robot’s capacity to perform quick tests on a big scale has been adapted to the utilization of this gel for a more efficient and precise outcome. The cosmetic industry has even shown interest in this product for testing the toxicity of certain substances – especially since in vivo tests will be prohibited in Europe as of 2013.

The product commercialized by QGel is the result of a long and laborious effort guided by Jeff Hubbell, a professor at the Laboratory of Regenerative Medicine and bio-pharmacology at EPFL, and whose research is associated with projects at Stanford, ETHZ, University of Zurich and the California Institute of Technology. “Other research groups are developing systems to cultivate cells in three dimensions, but none of them are at the same time as stable, robot-friendly, inexpensive, identically reproducible and adaptable”, states Matthias Lütolf. Though their product is already used by many research institutes, the next aim of the start-up is to get 2 million francs to create its own laboratory, where they can custom make the gels and independently sell them to pharmaceutical groups.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Thousands of new microbial communities identified in human body

September 20, 2017
A new study of the human microbiome—the trillions of microbial organisms that live on and within our bodies—has analyzed thousands of new measurements of microbial communities from the gut, skin, mouth, and vaginal microbiome, ...

Study finds immune system is critical to regeneration

September 20, 2017
The answer to regenerative medicine's most compelling question—why some organisms can regenerate major body parts such as hearts and limbs while others, such as humans, cannot—may lie with the body's innate immune system, ...

Immune cells produce wound healing factor, could lead to new IBD treatment

September 20, 2017
Specific immune cells have the ability to produce a healing factor that can promote wound repair in the intestine, a finding that could lead to new, potential therapeutic treatments for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), according ...

As men's weight rises, sperm health may fall

September 20, 2017
(HealthDay)—A widening waistline may make for shrinking numbers of sperm, new research suggests.

Researchers find way to convert bad body fat into good fat

September 19, 2017
There's good fat and bad fat in our bodies. The good fat helps burn calories, while the bad fat hoards calories, contributing to weight gain and obesity. Now, new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. ...

New model may help science overcome the brain's fortress-like barrier

September 19, 2017
Scientists have helped provide a way to better understand how to enable drugs to enter the brain and how cancer cells make it past the blood brain barrier.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.