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Karl D. Lewis, MD


Studying Merkel Cell Carcinoma Via Organotypic Epithelial Raft Cultures

By: Sarah Campen, PharmD
Posted: Friday, April 22, 2022

The development of new therapies for Merkel cell carcinoma has been hindered by the lack of in vitro culture models and the scarcity of prospective clinical trials. In a study published in Cancers, researchers developed organotypic epithelial raft cultures of Merkel cell carcinoma by growing primary human keratinocytes and Merkel cell carcinoma cell lines on artificial dermal equivalents to aid in the study of this rare and aggressive type of skin cancer.

“Organotypic epithelial raft cultures of Merkel cell carcinoma cell lines have the potential to be used as a powerful tool for evaluating the efficacy and selectivity of new drug candidates, facilitating the translation of basic research findings into clinical practice,” stated Robert Snoeck, PhD, of the Rega Institute for Medical Research, Leuven, Belgium, and colleagues.

Due to the heterogeneity of the mutations that lead to Merkel cell carcinoma, animal models for this malignancy are difficult to develop. Organotypic epithelial raft cultures do not employ animal models; instead, they are three-dimensional in vitro culture systems that permit terminal differentiation of keratinocytes when seeded on top of collagen beds at the air-liquid interface.

In this study, the authors established organotypic epithelial raft cultures of both Merkel cell polyomavirus–positive and –negative cell lines. The proliferation of Merkel cell lines into a differentiated epithelium was confirmed via histologic and immunohistochemical analyses. Additionally, gene-expression analysis revealed differences in the expression profiles of the distinct tumor cells and the keratinocytes at the transcriptional level, indicating this model appears to fully recapitulate the cellular environment of Merkel cell carcinoma.

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.

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