Extracellular matrix (ECM) is known to have an influence on physiological processes and on tumour progression: ECM properties (composition, stiffness) modulate cell proliferation, migration, invasion and epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). For example, EMT is inhibited by laminin-rich environment whereas it is promoted in fibronectin-rich ECM (Chen et al 2013. Differentiation 86, 126-132).

In their recent paper (Li et al 2019. Scientific Reports, 9:248), Li and associates showed that spatial light interference microscopy (SLIM) is a relevant tool to evaluate cell proliferation and migration in real time. To do so, they seeded mouse melanoma cell lines in polyacrylamide gels with different elastic moduli (10 kPa, 40 kPa and 100 kPa) and have acquired in phase contrast with SLIM for 24 hours. Below is an example of phase image produced with SLIM of B16 F0 on 40 kPa polyacrylamide hydrogel:

SLIM gives information about dry mass (total amount of protein in cell) and on cell migration, thanks to the dispersion phase spectroscopy method. SLIM is a better tool to evaluate cell proliferation than total cell volume (because of water exchanges). SLIM allowed seeing differences in proliferation and migration between different cell lines: B16 F0 and B16 F10, which present a low and high metastatic potential, respectively.

Moreover, authors showed that these cell lines proliferated differently according to matrix stiffness, and did not respond the same way: B16 F10 cell line migration was quite independent from the matrix rigidity, whereas B16 F0 migration was enhanced along with the increase of elastic modulus. This type of analysis could be of interest with patient cells, to determine metastatic potential and adapt treatment modalities. This paper demonstrates the importance of studying the microenvironment, especially matrix stiffness

In HCS Pharma, we develop BIOMIMESYS® by modulating elastic modulus and composition, and use it to study cancer cell proliferation and response to treatments. For more information on BIOMIMESYS® Oncology, follow this link, and feel free to contact us for any request!


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