Stars, diamonds, circles.
Rather than your average bowl of Lucky Charms, these are three-dimensional cell cultures generated by an exciting new digital microfluidics platform, the results of which have been published in
"We already know that the microenvironment can greatly influence cell fate," says
"Everyone wants to do three-dimensional (3D) cell culture," explains
More naturalistic, 3D cell cultures are a challenge to grow. "The reagents are expensive, the materials are inconvenient for automation, and 3D matrices break down upon repeated handling," explains Wheeler, who was named an Inventor of the Year by the
Eydelnant was able to address these difficulties by adapting a digital microfluidics platform first created in the Wheeler lab. Cells, caught up in a hydrogel material, are gently flowed across a small field that, on a screen, looks much like a tiny chessboard. The cells are strategically manipulated by a small electric field across a cutout shape on the top plate of the system, made from indium in oxide, and become fixed.
"When we grew kidney cells in these microgels, the cultures formed hollow sphere structures resembling primitive kidneys within four or five days," Eydelnant claims.
The tool allows a great deal of flexibility in terms of the number of different kinds of cells that can be incorporated into the shapes, as well as the shapes and size of the microenvironments: whimsical, like the stars, diamond and circles of Lucky Charms, or designed to mimic living 3D niches, offering researchers a glimpse into how these factors all affect cell fate decisions.
What's more, according to Eydelnant, the platform permits researchers to run, "32 experiments at the same time, automatically, and all on something the size of a credit card."
"[This new] system allows for hands-free assembly of sub-microlitre, three-dimensional microgels. Each gel is individually addressable, fluid exchange is gentler than macro-scale alternatives, and reagent use is reduced more than 100-fold," Wheeler says.
"We believe that this new tool will make 3D cell culture a more attractive and accessible format for cell biology research," he adds.
Although the researchers can foresee numerous possible applications for this platform, the team is "particularly excited" about its potential for personalized medicine.
Wheeler argues, "We may be able to collect small tissue samples from patients, distribute them into 3D gels on digital microfluidic devices, and screen for conditions to identify individually tailored therapies. This is in the 'dream' stages for now, but we think the methods described here will be useful for these types of applications in the future."
CC AutoTriage1pm-140226-30TagarumaMar-4648184 30TagarumaMar
Most Popular Stories
- Diplomatic, Financial Fix Sought for Ukraine Crisis
- 2 Million Long-term Jobless Have No Benefits
- Las Vegas Casino Wants 'Blackout Drunk' Gambler to Pony up $500,000
- Florida Insurers Reach Out to Hispanics
- Disney Lays Off 700 From Interactive Unit
- Stocks Get Green Light on Weekly Jobless Claims
- Staples Closing Stores, Moving Online
- Last Call for Hispanic Health Care Signups
- Costco Revenue Up, Profits Down in Q2
- Hillary Clinton Smacks Putin Again