Scientists at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg in Germany say they have developed a novel 3D cell culture technique that allows brain tumor growth to be studied directly and without the need for complex experiments using live animals. The team, led by neuroscientist Nicolai Savaskan, M.D., Ph.D., devised a method called the Vascular Organotypic Glioma Impact Model (VOGIM), which allows the formation of tumor blood vessels and their interaction with immune cells to be observed over a period of several days in an organotypic context. Their study (“A versatile ex vivo technique for assaying tumor angiogenesis and microglia in the brain”) is published in Oncotarget.
According to Dr. Savaskan, the new approach will allow new medications and therapies to be analyzed and enable side effects to be identified more quickly and efficiently than when using conventional cell culture techniques. “VOGIM is a complex technique that allows tumors to be studied in real time and under clinically realistic conditions,” he explained.
In the method tissue samples from rodent brains are infected with tumor cells expressing fluorescent reporter genes. The growth of tumor cells and blood vessels, cell death, and the influence of medications on these developments are observed in the experiment.
“Even though VOGIM still requires some animal testing, it is a great technique. It can be used to test the effectiveness of new medications and molecules against gliomas relatively quickly and in a way that is reproducible,” continued Dr. Savaskan. “We can also use it to study the side effects of almost any medication.”
His next goal is to test new hybrid molecules from the plant and animal kingdom in this system to quickly develop new treatment strategies.