Image of the Day: Synthetic Scaffolds
Image of the Day: Synthetic Scaffolds

Image of the Day: Synthetic Scaffolds

Three-dimensional polymer matrices offer researchers a new representation of the extracellular matrix that can be used to study the growth of cancer cells.

Amy Schleunes
Amy Schleunes

A former intern at The Scientist, Amy studied neurobiology at Cornell University and later earned her MFA in creative writing from the University of Iowa. She is a Los...

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Feb 27, 2020

ABOVE: An electrospun honeycomb scaffold

Researchers at Michigan Tech have engineered synthetic versions of the extracellular matrix to study the growth of cancer cells, according to a report published on January 9 in IEEE Open Journal of Engineering in Medicine and Biology.

The scaffolds, which were created with an “electrospinner” that uses electric fields to weave matrices out of nano-fibers, come in three shapes: honeycomb, mesh, and aligned, in which the fibers are tightly packed similar to connective tissue. The authors “discovered that the triple-negative breast cancer cells preferred honeycomb scaffolds while adenocarcinoma cells favored mesh scaffolds and premalignant cells preferred the aligned scaffolds,” according to a press release.

Coauthor Smitha Rao says in the statement that this new technology can help researchers to study “how and why cancer cells metastasize. We can understand in a true 3D system why pre-metastatic cells become metastatic, and provide tools to other researchers to study signaling pathways that change between pre-malignant and malignant cells.”

S.N. Hanumantharao et al., “Engineered three-dimensional scaffolds modulating fate of breast cancer cells using stiffness and morphology related cell adhesion,” IEEE Open Journal of Engineering in Medicine and Biologydoi:10.1109/OJEMB.2020.2965084, 2020.

Amy Schleunes is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at