A Tumor Microenvironment Model for Investigating Cancer Cell Dynamics during Angiogenesis

Zinia Basil, Alexandra Daves, Ben Kaufman, Banks Lomel, Andrea Lopez, and Elijah Rice

Authors:  Zinia N. Basil, Alexandria R. Daves, Benjamin G. Kaufman, Banks M. Lomel, Andrea A. Lopez, Elijah W. Rice, Arinola Lampejo, Ariana D. Suarez-Martinez, Marc Sole Gras, Samantha S. Dykes, Zachary R. Wakefield, Dietmar W. Siemann, Yong Huang, Walter L. Murfee

Faculty Mentor: Walter L. Murfee

College:  Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering


Tumor growth is dependent on the relationship between cancer cells and angiogenesis, defined as the growth of new blood vessels. This relationship motivates the need for in vitro models that recapitulate the complexity of a real tissue environment. Our laboratory recently introduced the combination of bioprinting and tissue culture as an approach to develop such a model. The objective of this study is to quantify the effects of bioprinted cancer cells on angiogenesis in cultured mouse mesometrium tissues. DiI pre-labelled mouse breast cancer (4T1) cells were inkjet-printed onto mouse mesometrium tissues harvested from C57Bl/6 female mice. An initial cancer cell “spot” was created per tissue by printing 10 drops of cell ink. Tissues were cultured for 5 days with MEM supplemented with 20% serum. To identify endothelial cells and cancer cells, tissues were fixed in methanol and labeled with PECAM and E-cadherin, respectively. Images from 2 experimental groups (no cells versus cancer cells) will be used to quantify the total vascular length, the number of capillary sprouts and the number of vessel segments. The results will support whether the presence of cancer cells affects angiogenesis and will support bioprinting cancer cells onto intact tissues as a novel cancer research model.

Poster Pitch

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17 Responses
  1. Ariana Suarez

    You six were amazing undergrads this semester! The poster looks awesome and the presentation was great. Thank you so much for helping me with this project 🙂

  2. Dima Majbour

    Great job with compiling and representing the data! We know angiogenesis can be quantified using several variables, what makes segments per vascular length the most reliable in this situation? Good job on your hard work once again!

  3. Ben Kaufman

    Great question Dima!

    We counted segments per vascular length because we wanted to account for the length of preexisting vasculature as well as the sprouts that have grown and connected with other segments. We also counted sprouts per vascular length, but we did not show it on the poster because it led to the same conclusion.

  4. Max Rozenblum

    Really impressive work everyone. What would you say was the most valuable thing you learned during this whole experience? It seems like you learned lots of great skills.

    1. Alexandria Daves

      Hey Max!

      That’s a really great question! Overall, I’d say for me the most valuable thing I learned was how the research process worked and how it feels to work in a more professional environment alongside fellow students. Dr. Murfee stressed the importance of understanding why we were doing what we were doing and to keep referring back to our original objective no matter where we were in the process. It was a really great experience!

    2. Elijah Rice

      Thank you Max!

      I think the most valuable thing that I learned from this experience was a more holistic and comprehensive understanding of the research process. There was definitely a lot of more niche, field-specific information I picked up, but I think that the more general skills involved in identifying literature gaps and what we can do to satisfy those gaps in knowledge is transferable between any field, and in that sense is highly valuable.

  5. Ben Kaufman

    For me the most valuable thing I learned from this experience was the research process as a whole. Coming in with no prior research experience, I now know about coming up with an objective, collecting data, analyzing data, and how to present our work in a meaningful way!

  6. Andrea Lopez

    Hi Max!
    I had a really great experience overall working in the lab. I think that learning the importance of breaking research down into smaller pieces such as the methods, models, and background and then making sure it always ties back into the objective was one of the biggest lessons that I learned.

  7. Frankie

    Great presentation and the poster!

    So, we know there is a need for developing in vitro models to investigate the dynamics of angiogenesis with tumors. But what does the role that cell printing plays in this research? Why do you need cell printing?

    1. Frankie

      To be more specific, there are many ways to input cancer cells, what is the advantage and potential of using cell printing?

      1. Elijah Rice

        Specifically, the advantage of cell printing is the creation of 3D structures that can more accurately mimic the complexity of actual tumors.

    2. Elijah Rice

      Hi Frankie!

      Like you stated, there is definitely a need to develop in vitro models to investigate the dynamics of angiogenesis with tumors. The role that cell printing plays in this research is to allow us to more accurately model the complex tumor micro-environment. Cell printing is needed to reduce the differences between the in vitro model and the tumor micro-environment that are present in other existing models that we identified in our literature review.

  8. Zinia Basil

    Hello Max,
    We did learn lots of useful skills during this experience for sure! For me, the most valuable thing I learned was how to make links between the data which we collected and what we are studying. It is important to know how what you are doing in the lab is relevant to your research. I think that I will find this to be quite useful as I progress through the biomedical engineering major.

  9. Leah Barnes

    Hi! I do not have a background in biomedical engineering, but I think your group explained what could be a complex topic very well. I really like the strong use of visuals on your poster. Based on your results, do you have any specific research directions for the future?