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Cell Adh Migr. 2013 Nov-Dec;7(6):469-75. doi: 10.4161/cam.27294. Epub 2013 Dec 2.

A simple method for using silicone elastomer masks for quantitative analysis of cell migration without cellular damage or substrate disruption.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology; OUHSC; Oklahoma City, OK USA; Oklahoma Center for Neuroscience; OUHSC; Oklahoma City, OK USA; Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences; OUHSC; Oklahoma City, OK USA.
  • 2Department of Cell Biology; OUHSC; Oklahoma City, OK USA.


Cell migration is fundamental to many biological processes, including development, normal tissue remodeling, wound healing, and many pathologies. However, cell migration is a complex process, and understanding its regulation in health and disease requires the ability to manipulate and measure this process quantitatively under controlled conditions. This report describes a simple in vitro assay for quantitative analysis of cell migration in two-dimensional cultures that is an inexpensive alternative to the classic "scratch" assay. The method described utilizes flexible silicone masks fabricated in the lab according to the research demands of the specific experiment to create a cell-free area for cells to invade, followed by quantitative analysis based on widely available microscopic imaging tools. This experimental approach has the important advantage of visualizing cell migration in the absence of the cellular damage and disruption of the substrate that occurs when the "wound" is created in the scratch assay. This approach allows the researcher to study the intrinsic migratory characteristics of cells in the absence of potentially confounding contributions from cellular responses to injury and disruption of cell-substrate interactions. This assay has been used with vascular smooth muscle cells, fibroblasts, and epithelial cell types, but should be applicable to the study of practically any type of cultured cell. Furthermore, this method can be easily adapted for use with fluorescence microscopy, molecular biological, or pharmacological manipulations to explore the molecular mechanisms of cell migration, live cell imaging, fluorescence microscopy, and correlative immunolabeling.


ImageJ; culture mask; image analysis; microscope; migration; scratch assay; sylgard elastomer

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