"Our idea is very simple," Yang said. "We wanted to intensify the signal so that it could be read inside the well, by cultivating the cells in three dimensions."
Yang and his team created a device that uses standard well plates in a new way. In one well, they plant cells on one of their 3D scaffolds. The surrounding eight wells contain only growth medium.
The 3D glob of cells in the middle well glows brighter than a 2D film, due to a specific optical effect, Yang said. The surrounding empty cells provide a darker background that lets the fluorescence signal be measured even more easily.
"You can use this as a device to monitor a drug's effect, whether you want to stimulate or inhibit cell growth," Yang said. "We have used it on colon cancer cells and mouse embryonic stem cells. And in both cases, we found a very good relation between cell growth and fluorescence intensity."
The device can be used with standard well plates, though nine wells are required for each test instead of one. He and his team are expanding the technology from 96-well plates to 384-well plates, and are working on their own custom plate design.
There is an advantage to using more wells: The eight empty wells supply nutrients to the cells in the middle well, so tests can run for up to two weeks without researchers having to replenish the growth medium.
"If you replenish the medium, you could essentially grow cells indefinitely," Yang said.
The second new technology to come from Yang's lab is a microfluidics platform that allows for testing of many types of cells or drug dosages at once. Tiny pipes connect wells that contain cells growing in 3D. The drug to be tested is pumped from a common reservoir into the pipes.
Each well could receive a different dosage of the same drug. Or, researchers could plant cells from different organs in each well, and see how each kind of cell reacts to the same d
Source:Ohio State University