JUN 28, 2017 6:11 PM PDT

The Extracellular Matrix Revealed in Three Dimensions

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Our organs are made up of cells that are surrounded by a supportive matrix, which helps give the organ structure and form. The extracellular matrix exerts a significant influence on tissues and by extension, plays a role in disease progression. It has been very challenging to study it though, until now. Researchers at the Biotech Research & Innovation Centre (BRIC) at the University of Copenhagen have created a technique that reveals tissue and tumor structure in a new way.

De-cellularized kidney seen with a dark field microscope. / Credit: by Alejandro Mayorca-Guiliani.

Led by Professor Janine Erler, scientists have been able to dissolve away cells and leave the matrix intact. Investigators have revealed the inside of tumors and organs in a novel way and with unprecedented detail. The work has been reported in Nature Medicine.

“We have developed a technique to obtain intact organ scaffolds and to image them in incredibly high detail using microscopes. We are the first to image the 3D structures of primary and metastatic tumors as well as healthy organs in this way,” said Erler.

The extracellular matrix provides a place for cells to anchor and arrange into an architecture. It also allows the cells inside to get a sense of changes in their environment and the appropriate responses. However, when there is dysfunction in this system, it can foster tumor growth. As such, scientists want to learn more about it, and this new tool is already providing new insights.

“We have isolated the structure that keeps tissues in place and organizes the cells inside them. We did this by using existing blood vessels to deliver cell-removing compounds directly to a specific tissue to remove all cells within an organ. Doing this leaves behind an intact scaffold that could be analyzed biochemically and microscopically, providing us with the first view of the structure of tumors,” explained Alejandro Mayorca-Guiliani, a postdoctoral fellow in Erler’s lab who pioneered the new method.

De-cellularized structure of a vessel inside a metastatic lymph node. / Credit: Alejandro Mayorca-Guiliani.

“When you remove the cells, the clarity of what you can see through the microscope is much improved – you can see the fibers of the matrix more clearly and you can look much deeper into the tissue. Using this approach, we have been able to see important differences in matrix organization when we looked at metastatic tumors in the lung and in the lymph node,” commented co-first author Chris Madsen, an imaging expert now working at Lund University in Sweden.

This work is sure to impact cancer research; viewing the remnants of organs stripped of their cells can illustrate how the architecture of organs and tumors differs.

“We are now re-introducing cells into our extracellular matrix scaffolds, bringing them back to life, to study how tumors form and how cancer progresses. This is extremely exciting and offers a unique opportunity to study how cells behave in their native environment,” concluded Professor Erler.

 

Learn more about the etracellular matrix from the video.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via University of Copenhagen, Nature Medicine

About the Author
BS
Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
SEP 25, 2022
Microbiology
Understanding Oral Microbe Evolution, Which May Aid in the Hunt for Antibiotics
SEP 25, 2022
Understanding Oral Microbe Evolution, Which May Aid in the Hunt for Antibiotics
New research has suggested that bacteria that live in the human mouth could work as model organisms that can help us fin ...
OCT 10, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
How STR Analysis Supports CAR-T Cell Manufacturing
OCT 10, 2022
How STR Analysis Supports CAR-T Cell Manufacturing
Engineered T cell therapies involve the genetic modification of a patient’s own immune cells with chimeric antigen ...
SEP 26, 2022
Cancer
Clinical Trial Suggests Oncolytic Virus Effective in Combination with Immune Checkpoint Inhibition
SEP 26, 2022
Clinical Trial Suggests Oncolytic Virus Effective in Combination with Immune Checkpoint Inhibition
One type of cancer immunotherapy, called oncolytic viral therapy, works by infecting cancer cells with a specific virus. ...
OCT 26, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
Ancient Selfish Genes Carried by Yeast May Change Our View of Evolution
OCT 26, 2022
Ancient Selfish Genes Carried by Yeast May Change Our View of Evolution
When genes are passed down to the next generation, some have an advantage, and are more likely to be inherited than othe ...
NOV 01, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
Understanding the Connection Between Stroke and Shingles
NOV 01, 2022
Understanding the Connection Between Stroke and Shingles
Shingles, or herpes zoster (HZ), is caused by the varicella zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chicken po ...
NOV 13, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
How Phase Separation is Involved in Cell Size Control
NOV 13, 2022
How Phase Separation is Involved in Cell Size Control
When certain things in the cellular environment change, such as a dramatic increase in salt or sugar levels, it can caus ...
Loading Comments...