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J Vis Exp. 2011 Dec 23;(58):e3297. doi: 10.3791/3297.

Evaluation of cancer stem cell migration using compartmentalizing microfluidic devices and live cell imaging.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA.

Abstract

In the last 40 years, the United States invested over 200 billion dollars on cancer research, resulting in only a 5% decrease in death rate. A major obstacle for improving patient outcomes is the poor understanding of mechanisms underlying cellular migration associated with aggressive cancer cell invasion, metastasis and therapeutic resistance. Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM), the most prevalent primary malignant adult brain tumor, exemplifies this difficulty. Despite standard surgery, radiation and chemotherapies, patient median survival is only fifteen months, due to aggressive GBM infiltration into adjacent brain and rapid cancer recurrence. The interactions of aberrant cell migratory mechanisms and the tumor microenvironment likely differentiate cancer from normal cells. Therefore, improving therapeutic approaches for GBM require a better understanding of cancer cell migration mechanisms. Recent work suggests that a small subpopulation of cells within GBM, the brain tumor stem cell (BTSC), may be responsible for therapeutic resistance and recurrence. Mechanisms underlying BTSC migratory capacity are only starting to be characterized. Due to a limitation in visual inspection and geometrical manipulation, conventional migration assays are restricted to quantifying overall cell populations. In contrast, microfluidic devices permit single cell analysis because of compatibility with modern microscopy and control over micro-environment. We present a method for detailed characterization of BTSC migration using compartmentalizing microfluidic devices. These PDMS-made devices cast the tissue culture environment into three connected compartments: seeding chamber, receiving chamber and bridging microchannels. We tailored the device such that both chambers hold sufficient media to support viable BTSC for 4-5 days without media exchange. Highly mobile BTSCs initially introduced into the seeding chamber are isolated after migration though bridging microchannels to the parallel receiving chamber. This migration simulates cancer cellular spread through the interstitial spaces of the brain. The phase live images of cell morphology during migration are recorded over several days. Highly migratory BTSC can therefore be isolated, recultured, and analyzed further. Compartmentalizing microfluidics can be a versatile platform to study the migratory behavior of BTSCs and other cancer stem cells. By combining gradient generators, fluid handling, micro-electrodes and other microfluidic modules, these devices can also be used for drug screening and disease diagnosis. Isolation of an aggressive subpopulation of migratory cells will enable studies of underlying molecular mechanisms.

PMID:
22217858
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3369664
Free PMC Article
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