Novel cell culture technique shows tumours selectively uptake
12 September 2007
A novel cell-culture technique devised by scientists
at The University of Nottingham has shown that nanoparticles can deliver
drugs selectively to brain tumour cells.
Therapy for brain cancers is
particularly difficult for a number of reasons, including getting sufficient
drug to the tumour and selectivity of drug action. Dr Martin Garnett,
Associate Professor of drug delivery at the Nottingham University School of
Pharmacy said: “We are working on a number of new therapeutic approaches
using nanoparticle drug-delivery systems. However, understanding and
developing these systems requires suitable models for their evaluation.”
The nanoparticles used in this study were prepared from a novel
biodegradable polymer poly (glycerol adipate). The polymer has been further
modified to enhance incorporation of drugs and make the nanoparticles more
Dr Terence Parker, Associate Professor in the School of
Biomedical Sciences explained: “The interaction of tumour cells with brain
cells varies between different tumours and different locations within the
brain. Using 3D culture models is therefore important in ensuring that the
behaviour of cells in culture is similar to that seen in real life”.
work was mainly carried out by graduate student Weina Meng who formulated
the fluorescently labelled nanoparticles and studied them in a variety of
tumour and brain cell cultures. Her early studies showed faster uptake of
nanoparticles into tumour cell cultures than normal brain cell cultures
grown separately. This selectivity was only seen in 3-dimensional cultures
and was the driving force to develop a more complex and representative
Tumour cell aggregates have been used as cell culture models of
cancer cells for many years. Similarly thin brain slices from newborn rats
can be cultured for weeks and are an important tool in brain biology. In
this study, these two techniques have been brought together for the first
time. Brain tumour cell aggregates were labelled with fluorescent iron
microparticles and grown on normal newborn rat-brain tissue slices.
The double cell labelling technique allowed investigation of tumour cell
invasion into brain tissue by either fluorescence or electron microscopy
from the same samples. Using these techniques the tumour aggregates were
found to invade the brain slices in a similar manner to tumours in the body.
Having developed the model then the tumour selective uptake of nanoparticles
was demonstrated in the co-culture.
The collaboration on this project has
been nurtured by Professor David Walker of the School of Human Development
who co-founded the Children’s Brain Tumour Research Group at Nottingham.
Professor Walker said: “Understanding the biology of tumours is important if
we are to develop effective new treatments. This work demonstrates how close
co-operation between disciplines can help to push forward ideas which could
lead to new clinical therapies”.
The project, conducted jointly by the
Schools of Pharmacy, Biomedical Sciences and Human Development, will be
featured in the September issue of the Experimental Biology and Medicine.
Dr Steven Goodman, Editor-in-Chief of Experimental Biology and Medicine,
agrees with Professor Walker. Dr. Goodman said: “The convergence of cancer
cell biology and nanoscience, exemplified by this study, holds great promise
for the future of brain tumour therapy.”
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