A team from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Grainger College of Engineering and Mayo Clinic have developed a new technique for creating “microcancer” cell cultures. It allows researchers to form hundreds of microcancers in a high-throughput format using a small, microfabricated chip, enabling direct measurement of cell health or response to drugs. It also allows researchers to control the shape of the culture using capillary forces and thus creating cultures that more closely resemble in-vivo cell three-dimensional geometry.
The work was recently published in Science Advances. It was completed as part of the Mayo Clinic and Illinois Alliance for Technology-Based Healthcare.
A cancerous tumor’s microenvironment – the area where cancerous cells interact with healthy tissue through physical contact or by exchanging extracellular signals back and forth – has significant influence on how a tumor progresses and responds to cancer-fighting medications. Reproducing those cells in a culture that can be imaged and studied is a crucial step in cancer treatment. Ideally, that culture takes a very small sample of a patient’s tumor and produces an array of hundreds to thousands of tiny, uniform tumors – “microcancers” – only a few hundred micrometers in diameter.
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