Scientists mathematically describe the onset of metastasis

A team of Spanish scientists has managed to mathematically describe how metastasis begins and have developed a model that could help improve treatments for wound healing, organ regeneration or better understand the evolution of cancer.

Researchers from the Carlos III and Complutense universities of Madrid have mathematically described how a tumor invades epithelial cells and automatically quantifies the evolution of the tumor and the islands of cells that remain behind it.

The model they have developed could be used to better understand the cellular biophysical characteristics that are involved in the development of new treatments for wound healing, organ regeneration or the evolution of cancer, the Carlos III University reported in a note released today .

The research analyzes the collective movement of cells in tissues, a process that in addition to being essential in pathological developments such as tumor invasion and metastasis plays an essential role in physiological processes such as wound healing, embryonic development or tissue reconstruction.

The researchers, who have published their findings in the journal PLoS Computational Biology, have used a combination of mathematical modeling, numerical simulations, and topological analysis of data from simulations and experiments to understand how cancer cells invade healthy cells.

“A simplification of the first stages of cancer metastasis is that tumor cells move as a group and displace a group of normal cells in healthy tissue”, explained the authors of the study Luis López Bonilla and Carolina Trenado, from Department of Mathematics of the Carlos III University, and Ana Carpio, of the Department of Applied Mathematics of the Complutense.

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By selecting the appropriate cell groups and using appropriate software, we have succeeded in simulating the invasion that occurs in healthy tissue by cancer cells ”, the scientists have pointed out.

To automatically follow the evolution of the barrier or boundary between cancer and normal cells, researchers have used topological data analysis techniques, something that is used for the first time in this type of study.

“Starting from a series of successive images from the experiments and also from the numerical simulations, the topological changes in the interfaces have been grouped, plotted and classified automatically as the cancer cells advance”, indicate the scientists.

The techniques developed in the framework of this work can be scaled up to a large volume of data if these studies are carried out on a larger scale, according to the researchers, who have ensured that these same techniques could be relevant in the field of tissue bioengineering to study how the biophysical characteristics of different materials affect the regeneration of organs and tissues.

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