Squeezing Cancer Cells Through Tiny Holes for Diagnostic Uses

The stiffness of a cell is often an indicator of whether it is healthy or cancerous, and the so-called mechanotype, a phenotype based on cell mechanics when squeezed, is indicative of other properties of cells. Being able to easily measure how a cell deforms when under pressure has great potential for diagnostic purposes. Now the researchers at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have developed a device that can measure the stiffness and deformation of cells as they’re put under pressure.

The device can be made to measure large numbers of cells, providing a range of pressure between 10 and 20,000 pascals. The method it uses is called quantitative deformability cytometry, or q-DC. Inside the device, which is about the size of a microscope slide, microscopic drops of a well calibrated gel push cells through tiny holes smaller than the cells. As the cells go through, they deform. A microscope with a camera watches this deformation and records the action at a high frame rate. The video is then analyzed using computer vision algorithms, which results in detailed data about the cells’ mechanotype.

The system is incredibly fast, as the team has already analyzed billions of cells through it and has identified the variation in stiffness of breast cancer cells. The researchers believe that cancer cells may also change stiffness in response to different therapies, providing a way to evaluate how well a treatment is working by doing mechanotype analysis of biopsy samples.

Study in Biophysical Journal: Quantitative Deformability Cytometry: Rapid, Calibrated Measurements of Cell Mechanical Properties…

Via: UCLA…