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Cancer: lensless/3D coupling to observe the effect of treatments

​A new “lensless” microscopy technique associated with 3D cell culture was used to study the growth of prostate epithelial cells, and to discriminate healthy cells from cancer cells. This method of observation opens perspectives in the evaluation of anti-cancer treatments.

Published on 20 August 2013

Current cell culture models using very thin sections (2D) and conventional imaging methods both have their limitations. For example, confocal microscopy requires fixing, labeling and imaging cells in ‘z’ (depth) to study their 3D structure. These classic approaches, which are time-consuming and limited in their fields of view, do not allow the study of developmental dynamics in 3D of an epithelial tissue, such as from secretory glands (prostate, breast, salivary gland, lung, etc.).

Lensless imaging. Top: healthy cell line. Bottom: cancer cell line.
​In Grenoble, a team from the CEA-iRTSV, in collaboration with the CEA-Leti, has developed an innovative methodology coupling “lensless” imaging with 3D cell culture. This technique was tested on epithelial cells from healthy prostates, and on tumor line cells. After 6 days of culture, the biologists observed a signature that is characteristic of healthy cells and tumor cells, which do not organize the same way in 3D. They have succeeded to discriminate and count them by comparing the “lensless” optical signature from the two types of structures, and by applying holographic reconstruction algorithms. P

laced in an incubator, the very compact imaging device offers a wide field of vision, which enables tracking the evolution of 3D structures over several days and assessing their fate in response to a change in culture conditions.

The 3D culture/“lensless” coupling opens up new possibilities for the study of cell-cell and cell-microenvironment interactions. This method could meet the needs of the pharmaceutical industry for new 3D screening tools that are both more physiologically relevant than current high-throughput screening systems, and which allow the selection of more effective therapeutic molecules (through an improved assessment of their toxicity).

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