Assessing neural stem cell motility using an agarose gel-based microfluidic device.

Biomedical Engineering Department, Cornell University, USA.
Journal of Visualized Experiments 02/2008; DOI: 10.3791/674
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT While microfluidic technology is reaching a new level of maturity for macromolecular assays, cell-based assays are still at an infant stage. This is largely due to the difficulty with which one can create a cell-compatible and steady microenvironment using conventional microfabrication techniques and materials. We address this problem via the introduction of a novel microfabrication material, agarose gel, as the base material for the microfluidic device. Agarose gel is highly malleable, and permeable to gas and nutrients necessary for cell survival, and thus an ideal material for cell-based assays. We have shown previously that agarose gel based devices have been successful in studying bacterial and neutrophil cell migration. In this report, three parallel microfluidic channels are patterned in an agarose gel membrane of about 1mm thickness. Constant flows with media/buffer are maintained in the two side channels using a peristaltic pump. Cells are maintained in the center channel for observation. Since the nutrients and chemicals in the side channels are constantly diffusing from the side to center channel, the chemical environment of the center channel is easily controlled via the flow along the side channels. Using this device, we demonstrate that the movement of neural stem cells can be monitored optically with ease under various chemical conditions, and the experimental results show that the over expression of epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFR) enhances the motility of neural stem cells. Motility of neural stem cells is an important biomarker for assessing cells aggressiveness, thus tumorigenic factor. Deciphering the mechanism underlying NSC motility will yield insight into both disorders of neural development and into brain cancer stem cell invasion.

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