Preclinical Models and Analysis Tools
The mission of our team is to develop new techniques for acquiring images and using them to diagnose and characterize cancer processes. This laboratory uses different methods, such as confocal optical microscopy, computed axial tomography and ultrasound with in vitro cells, tissue of clinical origin, and animal models to develop algorithms for processing and analyzing the images in order to use them for early diagnosis of cancer or in quantitative studies on the molecular events that take place during the carcinogenesis process.
In particular, the development of technologies that simulate the microenvironment in which the cells interact with the tissue is essential in many areas of biomedical research, such as tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, cancer treatment and drug development. This work normally uses technologies that do not take into account the regulating effect of this microenvironment. This has led to the creation and use, in recent years, of different microfluidic systems that facilitate cell survival by realistically reproducing the microenvironmental conditions of cell-tissue interaction. These systems do this by using 3-D gels with mechanical and chemical properties similar to those of the tissue matrix, where changes in the microenvironmental conditions as a result of cell activity can be easily monitored.
Our group is working on creating platforms that combine microfluidics experiments and microscopic quantification to evaluate cell-matrix interactions under different mechanical and chemical conditions. We want to design a platform for the purpose of evaluating and quantifying the effect of environmental conditions on the metastatic potential of cancer cells. This requires quantifying the following aspects using sophisticated microscopy algorithms: cancer cell migration, tissue remodeling and alterations to the endothelial cell layer. To transfer this technology to preclinical and clinical practice, high-throughput systems will be designed to allow us to evaluate the metastatic potential of cancer cells under different experimental conditions, such as different biomechanical and chemical properties of the microenvironment or even the effect of using chemical factors that may be able to stop the migratory activity of the cells. Our work will make it possible to develop miniaturized high-throughput devices that will serve as tools for the pharmacological evaluation of anti-metastatic drugs (preclinical use) and the design of personalized chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer and the prevention of metastasis in different organs (clinical use).