Now in our 13th year of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science every day

Search the archive of over 4000 images

Use the Force

Forces at play in 3D tumour cell cultures called spheroids – insight into how cancers grow

29 June 2020

Use the Force

For a tumour to spread and grow, its cells must pull against the surrounding microenvironment of supporting molecules like elastic collagen. This jostling for space generates tension inside the cell – a struggle that drugs might exploit to limit cancerous growth. To investigate these forces, here researchers swap real tumours for lab-grown tumour ‘spheroids’ (black) which strain against the surrounding collagen under a microscope, creating starburst patterns of ‘deformations’ over a 12 hour period (top left to bottom right). Mathematical models simulate these patterns with the aim of predicting the contractility of different spheroids – how much their internal structure contracts when straining. Similar techniques could be used to predict the response of tumours growing in different tissue environments and provide a model for testing drugs aiming to push back on cancer.

Written by John Ankers

Search The Archive

Submit An Image

Follow on Tumblr

Follow on Instagram

What is BPoD?

BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

Read More

BPoD is also available in Catalan at with translations by the University of Valencia.