MIT engineers under the leadership of CGR Director Linda Griffith, in collaboration with scientists at Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, have developed a new way to grow tiny replicas of the pancreas, using either healthy or cancerous pancreatic cells. Their new models could help researchers develop and test potential drugs for pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest types of cancer and most difficult to treat.
About 10 years ago, Griffith’s MIT lab started work designing a synthetic gel that could be used to grow epithelial cells, which form the sheets that line most organs, along with other supportive cells. In a new study, Griffith and Claus Jorgensen, a group leader at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, show that the gel can also be used to support the growth of normal pancreatic organoids and pancreatic tumors. The researchers have also shown that their new gel can be used to grow other types of tissue, including intestinal and endometrial tissue.
Griffith and Jorgensen are the senior authors of a paper on this topic, published September 13, 2021, in Nature Materials.