Design and performance of mechano-tunable scaffolds for studying cancer cell malignancy in vitro
Supervisors: Dr. Aldo Leal-Egaña (Univ. Heidelberg), Prof. Dr. Christine Selhuber-Unkel (Univ. Heidelberg), Prof. Dr. Aldo R. Boccaccini (FAU)
Currently, cancer is the most recurrent cause of mortality worldwide, with nearly 10 million deaths in 2020 . Most known cancers (i.e., breast, prostate, brain, lung, ovary, etc.) are characterized by the presence of solid tumors. Tumors generate mechanical stress to confined cells, inducing the generation of very dangerous phenotypes, having more than one nucleus and being resistant to chemotherapeutic drugs, to name a few examples. Owing to the elasticity of malignant tissues increases with the progression of the pathology, in this master thesis, the influence of the mechanical properties of hydrogel-based scaffolds, mimicking different stages of cancer progression, will be studied in vitro with cancer cells. To this purpose, 3D tumor-like scaffolds will be designed and performed, keeping similar elastic properties to those analyzed in malignant tumors, at different stages of development of this disease. After culturing malignant cells in these three-dimensional environments, they will be tested by biological (i.e., viability, morphology, proliferation rate), and biophysical assays (i.e., single cell traction force microscopy), intending to answer the following question: how mechanical stress could modify the pathological hallmark in cancer cells? This research will be done with collaboration with the Institute of Molecular Systems Engineering, University of Heidelberg.
 Fuentes-Chandía M, Vierling A, Kappelmann-Fenzl M, Monavari M, Letort G, Höne L et al. 3D Spheroids Versus 3D Tumor-Like Microcapsules: Confinement and Mechanical Stress May Lead to the Expression of Malignant Responses in Cancer Cells. Advanced Biology. 2021;5(7) 2000349.