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On chip tissue testing
21 July 2010
A microfluidic device that keeps tumour tissue alive long enough to perform drug testing on could reduce the need for animal testing and improve personalised medicine, claim researchers in the UK.
Cell cultures are widely used to test responses to drugs and other external stimuli but a more accurate result can be gained from using tissue samples, as cell-cell interactions are maintained providing a closer representation of physiological environments. Microfluidic devices can be designed to maintain tissue samples, but so far this has only been for ultra-thin brain tissue slices in polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) devices for a maximum of 3 hours.
Now, Charlotte Dyer and colleagues at the University of Hull have designed a device that can maintain tissue cultures for at least 3 days. 'The tissue is maintained in the microfluidic device with continuous flow systems delivering essential nutrients and removing waste products in a highly controllable manner and with highly sensitive monitoring,' explains Dyer.
Continuous flowing inlets deliver essential nutrients to the tissue in the microfluidic device
The team tested the system using both normal and cancerous colon tissue, showing for the first time that a tumour biopsy sample can be maintained and responds to external stimuli, such as drugs.
Yuan Wen, an expert in tissue engineering at Invitrogen, Grand Island, US, says 'long-term culturing and interrogation of tissue constructs or biopsies with well controlled environmental parameters is one of the most sought applications of microfluidic technology in drug testing and clinical research.' According to Wen, this prototype microdevice allows in-depth investigation of tumour treatment in a more physiologically-relevant environment than previously available.
The team now intend to test other tissue types, and use the device to test the response of individual patient biopsy tissue samples to chemotherapeutic drugs.
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Link to journal article
A microfluidic device for tissue biopsy culture and interrogation
Abigail Webster, Charlotte E. Dyer, Stephen J. Haswell and John Greenman, Anal. Methods, 2010, 2, 1005
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