Scientists utilize the synchrotron to understand the the structure of cancer cells

A group of scientists led by the University of Surrey have used the special particle accelerator known as a synchrotron to better understand the structure of cancer cells. With the help of the synchrotron at the Diamond Light Source in Oxfordshire The team was able to complete sophisticated examinations of the cell’s structures at a nano and even at an atomic scale and to examine how cells and materials interact with each with each other.

Inside the hutch for experiments at Diamond’s B16 beamline. Image Credit: University of Surrey

To improve cancer screening and treatment, researchers require accurate models of cancerous tissues that they can study. The previous research has made significant progress in creating accurate, innovative 3D models that mimic the characteristics of a pancreatic tumor like structure, porosity and the composition of proteins. The most recent research, which was published in the Journal of Materials Research and Technology and Materials Today Advances, provides a method to improve the testing and characterization of these 3D structures, which will ultimately lead to better understanding of how cells interact with one other and with protein matrices on a nanoscale. Scientists will be able to conduct the most effective research and ensure that 3D structures and mechanical performance under laboratory conditions are comparable to the structures and performances in cancer tissue. This will allow researchers to develop better treatments for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.

This is a particularly important area of study because survival rates have not changed despite a flurry of research. It is the fifth most prevalent cause of cancer-related deaths in the UK and only eight percent of patients diagnosed survive for more than five years.

The stress was measured on the tiny laboratory-created structures using loading and unloading cycles. They also examined the effects of different protein mixtures in those 3D structures. They used in-situ micromechanical testing combined with synchrotron X-ray techniques, that allowed them to quantify the deformation mechanics as well as the mechanical properties of the components in a variety of lengths and on different modified surfaces.

Most people don’t think of mechanical engineering to function at an atomic or nanoscale, but there’s such important work being done. We are opening new scientific possibilities by combining advanced mechanical characterisation of biomaterials with the local cell’s behaviour.

Dr. Jingyi Mo, Research Fellow in Mechanical Engineering Sciences, University of Surrey

Dr. Tan Sui, Senior Lecturer in Materials Engineering, said:

“By providing more accurate cell-material properties we can shed more insight into how cells interact. The nano-scale analysis can be used by researchers to draw inspiration from nature to construct better tissue-engineered scaffolds which could lead to better screening and treatment. There’s still a lot of work to be done before patients see benefits, but we’re inching forwards in the right direction.”

Journal references:
  • Mo, J., and. (2021) Multi-scale structural and mechanical characterisation in bioinspired polyurethane pancreatic cancer model. Journal of Materials Research and Technology.
  • Mo, J., et al. (2021) Novel in situ multi-level analysis of structural-mechanical relations in a bioinspired polyurethane-based tissue model. Materials Today Advances.

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Gemma Wilson

Gemma is a journalism graduate with keen interest in covering business news – specifically startups. She has as a keen eye for technologies and has predicted quite a few successful startups over the last couple of years.

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