CRAFT develops digital microfluidics platform to understand why cancer cells invasive

Scientist looking at a slide

Published on Sep 3, 2020



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CRAFT co-lead Dr. Aaron Wheeler and his team have created a credit card-sized device for culturing human cells and studying how they invade other tissues. Cell invasion is a key step in cancer metastasis and non-pathological processes, such as tissue growth, differentiation and repair.

An important feature that distinguishes this device from others used to study cell invasion is that cells displaying different levels of ‘invasiveness’ can be isolated from the device and subjected to further characterization to elucidate the mechanisms underpinning the observed differences. In the current study, published in Science Advances, the researchers successfully used the device to isolate the most invasive breast cancer cells, subject them to RNA sequencing and identify more than 200 genes that were differentially expressed between the most and least invasive cells. These insights could reveal new therapeutic targets or biomarkers for breast cancer.

The new device is based on a powerful type of microfluidics, known as digital microfluidics. Dr. Wheeler’s lab is considered a world-leader in the application of digital microfluidics for cell culture and analysis.

This work was led by PhD candidate Betty Li from Dr. Wheeler’s lab and relied on access to CRAFT facilities (i.e., Centre for Microfluidics Systems) in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University of Toronto.

Read the full news story here on the Institute of Biomedical Engineering’s website: