A series of pumps and valves on the chips will enable the delivery of a variety of mechanical and chemical stressors, such as extreme pressure or chemotherapeutic agents, to different populations of cells living under a range of different conditions, including gradients of temperature and resource availability.
"A tumor is a heterogeneous thing with many different metapopulations of cells inside it," Austin said. "We're trying to represent the biological environment of a tumor and hopefully understand the rules by which a tumor evolves."
Experiments will be conducted at Princeton using both bacterial cells, which form biofilms analogous to human tissue that can be used as model systems, and human cancer cell lines. The research team currently is developing technologies to make the microscopes fully controllable remotely, allowing team members at partner institutions to conduct experiments and obtain real-time data via the Web.
The Princeton Physical Sciences-Oncology Center's research will build on previous experiments by Austin and his collaborators using a silicon microhabitat to study the evolution of E. coli bacteria. The research team already is culturing prostate cancer cells on silicon and PDMS chips, using pumps and valves to refresh the growth medium.
To create the most realistic representations of human tissue, the microhabitats in development will be far more complex than the currently existing chips. One key challenge to address will be optimizing the use of biological matrices on the chips to make them ext
|Contact: Kitta MacPherson|