More than 60,000 adults in the United States have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and among them, only a few 10 percent get to survive. According to the American Cancer Society, pancreatic cancer is symptomless and hidden deep inside our bodies. The disease can be diagnosed only after it has progressed and spread throughout your body. There have been no reliable tests to detect pancreatic cancer. 

The most common type of pancreatic cancer occurs in the cells lining acinar and ductal structures as the pancreas is a hormone-secreting organ that consists of ducts and acinar cells. And now, scientists have developed pancreatic organoids using a newly developed gel that enables them to understand pancreatic cancer. 

Studying pancreatic tumors by using pancreatic stem cells in the lab is particularly challenging as the cancerous properties might get lost when the cells are taken out. The researchers developed this pancreas model by using both mice and human pancreatic cells. The organoid models developed by scientists support the growth of tiny replicas of the pancreas from healthy and cancerous pancreatic cells. 

The pancreas models were grown in a tissue-derived gel substrate placed in a lab dish. This gel consists of a complex mixture of proteins, proteoglycans, and growth factors derived from mouse tumors. There is no guarantee that this specific cell type will grow in a particular batch of gel. 

The scientists have found that their new gel can also be used to grow other types of tissue, including intestinal and endometrial tissue. The scientists also showed that they can use their gel to grow organoids from pancreatic cancer cells in patients. They believe it could also be useful for studying lung, colorectal and other cancers. Such systems could be used to analyze how potential cancer drugs affect tumors and their microenvironment.

One of the advantages of the new gel is that it is completely synthetic and can be made easily in a lab by mixing specific precursors. The researchers have filed a patent on the technology and are in the process of licensing it to a company that could produce the gel commercially.