Fabrication of 3D Multicellular Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Disease Models Using Biofunctionalized Peptide-Based Scaffolds

  • Cynthia Olivia Baldelamar Juarez

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) is one of the most common type of hematologic malignancy in children, characterized by an excessive proliferation of unfunctional immature lymphoblasts in the blood and the bone marrow, which leads to a range of severe blood-related complications. Given the remarkable increase in the prevalence of leukemia in the past 20 years, there has been a particular interest in the development of in vitro experimental models for cancer research. Ultra-short self-assembling peptides have shown to be a promising class of synthetic biomaterials due to their biocompatibility, tunable mechanical properties, and the possibility of controlling the scaffold composition. The objective of this study was to create a bioactive but well-defined synthetic 3D model of the bone marrow (BM) microenvironment for the simulation of ALL using biofunctionalized ultrashort self-assembling peptide scaffolds. Different bioactive motifs derived from integral extracellular matrix (ECM) constituents that are known to enhance cell-matrix adhesion, including RGDS from fibronectin, YIGSR from laminin, and GFOGER from collagen, were incorporated into the parent peptide IIZK. These peptides demonstrated to be capable of generating stable hydrogel structures composed of fibrous porous networks, each with unique nanofiber morphology and mechanical properties. All the peptide scaffolds that were investigated in this study exhibited optimal characteristics concerning the cytocompatibility of multiple BM niche cells, including human bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs), and patient derived ALL cells. The suitability of the scaffolds as drug screening platforms was evaluated, demonstrating their potential as versatile tools for the assessment of drug efficacy.
Date of AwardJul 2023
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorCharlotte Hauser (Supervisor)


  • biofunctionalized peptides
  • leukemia
  • disease modeling
  • tissue engineering
  • peptide scaffolds
  • self-assembling peptides
  • 3D tissue systems
  • bone marrow.

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