New model for vascular and tumor research

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VOGIM: Tumor-induced cell death and tumor zones I and II. The tumor is shown in green, damaged neurons are shown in red and cell nuclei are shown in blue. There are at least two distinct tumor zones (TZ I and TZ II) visible. Photo: FAU

VOGIM cell culture technique allows tumor growth to be observed

Two characteristic features of malignant tumors are that they form massive blood vessels and bypass the immune system. A new cell culture technique allows the processes of tumor growth to be studied directly and in real time, without the need for complex experiments using live animals. The researchers at FAU who developed the technique looked specifically at brain tumors. The team led by neuroscientist PD Dr. N. Savaskan (Department of Neurosurgery) developed a 3D cell culture technique called the Vascular Organotypic Glioma Impact Model (VOGIM) which allows the formation of tumor blood vessels and their interaction with immune cells to be observed over a period of several days in an organotypic context. This new method will allow new medications and therapies to be analyzed directly, and enable side effects to be identified more quickly and efficiently than when using conventional cell culture techniques. VOGIM also allows the amount of animal testing required in vascular studies to be reduced. The results of the study by researchers at the Department of Neurosurgery have now been published in  ONCOTARGET.

VOGIM is a complex technique that allows tumors to be studied in real time and under clinically realistic conditions – without the need for live animal testing.

says Dr. N. Savaskan who led the study. In the technique tissue samples from rodent brains are infected with tumor cells expressing fluorescent reporter genes. The growth of tumor cells and blood vessels, cell death, and the influence of medications on these developments are observed in the experiment.

Even though VOGIM still requires some animal testing, it is a great technique. It can be used to test the effectiveness of new medications and molecules against gliomas-tumors of the central nervous system – relatively quickly and in a way that is reproducible. We can also use it to study the side effects of almost any medication.

The next goal of the Erlangen-based researchers is to test new hybrid molecules from the plant and animal kingdom in this system in order to quickly develop new treatment strategies.

Brain tumors have destructive effects on the surrounding cells and blood vessels. Accumulations of serum around the tumor are a common symptom. These cause swelling in the brain and increase pressure inside the skull to dangerous levels. In the worst case, the swelling can cause pressure on the respiratory center above the cervical spine, quickly leading to suffocation. The cause of this swelling in the brain are pathological changes to the tumor blood vessels and disruption of the immune response to the brain tumor. The accumulations of serum are caused by the tumor cells which damage surrounding tissue and cells, making them more permeable. The new VOGIM technique allows the tumor blood vessels and the immune system of the brain to be observed closely and the influence of new therapeutics to be studied in this context.


Further information

PD Dr. Nicolai Savaskan

Phone: +49 9131 85-44748