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Chemical tests of cell growth enter third dimension

Ohio State University researchers have developed two new technologies for measuring cell growth in the laboratory.

The first patent-pending technology provides a way for researchers to easily tell if cancer cells in the laboratory are responding to an anti-cancer drug. The second -- because it tests several sets of cells at once -- allows for the simultaneous testing of different dosages, or the effect of a single drug on different kinds of cells taken from the body.

Shang-Tian Yang, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio State, and his colleagues described the two technologies Wednesday and Thursday at the American Chemical Society Fall National Meeting in San Francisco.

For more than a decade, Yang's team has been developing three-dimensional methods for growing cells for laboratory testing. His fibrous-bed bioreactor (FBB) is a device that allows cells to grow in natural 3D bundles. In the body, cells cling to supportive tissues as they grow; inside the FBB, they cling to strands of polyester fibers.

For the first of the two new technologies, Yang took the basic concept behind the FBB and combined it with laboratory testing methods that normally only grow cells in two dimensions.

Such tests are normally done on cells in trays containing many tiny wells. Each well contains a growth medium and some cells, and a protein that will cause growing cells to fluoresce. Researchers test a drug by adding it to a well. If the cells continue to fluoresce, that means that the cells are still reproducing, and the drug isn't effective at controlling growth.

The problem is how to measure the amount of fluorescence, to quantify how much the cells are growing. Fluorescing cells don't look very bright in the well, because they grow as a thin film layer that is essentially two-dimensional. Researchers get around this problem by removing the cells from the well and counting them one by one under a microscope.

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Source:Ohio State University


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