Taking inspiration from the traditional Japanese art of flower arrangement, researchers have developed a technique for creating "artificial brains" for the personalized treatment of brain cancer.
Organoids And Its Uses
Organoids are a mass of millions of brain cells that represent the basic model of the brain but are incapable of performing the basic functions of the brain. However, the organoids are reliable structures for studying the growth pattern of tumors and treatment options.
Christian Naus, a researcher at the University of British Columbia who also holds a Canada Research Chair in Gap Junctions and Neurological Disorders, worked on the project with a Japanese bioprinting company. Naus said that the organoids help in studying tumors in the "context" of a human brain and not merely on a plastic dish in the laboratory.
An entirely different gene activity is observed when the cells are grown adhering to each other as a three-dimensional structures than on a flat plastic base, noted Naus. The researcher is involved in the research of glioblastoma, a fatal brain cancer that occurs deep inside the brain and spreads rapidly.
The treatment option currently available for glioblastoma is surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy. However, in most cases the therapies don't contain the cancer and eventually the disease spreads and claims the life of the patient within just year of diagnosis.
Artificial Brain Development
Naus worked with Cyfuse, the biotech company that is involved in printing human tissues using a method based on ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement. In this technique, the stems of flowers are fixed to brass needles protruding from a heavy base plate.
For the bioprinting of tissues Cyfuse uses a similar technique, but with a much smaller base plate and with microneedles. Naus, alongside research associate Wun Chey Sin and Cyfuse's Kaori Harada, fixed small spheres of neural stem cells to the microneedles on the plate.
The neural stem cells grew and multiplied into brain tissue, then formed organoids 2- to 3-millimetes in diameter. The organoids allowed the passage of nutrients and oxygen into the tissues though they lacked blood supply.
"The cells make their own environment," said Naus. "We're not doing anything except printing them, and then they self-assemble."
Glioblastoma Study On Organoids
The researchers then introduced cancerous glioma cells into the organoids. It was found that the cancer spread rapidly to other healthy brain tissues. Given that, Naus noted that models of patients' brains could be developed with this technique using both healthy and cancerous cells, which would help in developing more personalized therapy.
By creating authentic brain models of the patients it is possible to test drugs in varied combinations that work best on the patient's tumor, noted Naus.