Ayuso, Jose M., Virumbrales-Muñoz, María, Lacueva, Alodia, Lanuza, Pilar M., Checa-Chavarria, Elisa, Botella, Pablo, Fernández, Eduardo, Doblare, Manuel, Allison, Simon J., Phillips, Roger M., Pardo, Julián, Fernandez, Luis J. and Ochoa, Ignacio (2016) Development and characterization of a microfluidic model of the tumour microenvironment. Scientific Reports, 6. p. 36086. ISSN 2045-2322

The physical microenvironment of tumours is characterized by heterotypic cell interactions and physiological gradients of nutrients, waste products and oxygen. This tumour microenvironment has a major impact on the biology of cancer cells and their response to chemotherapeutic agents. Despite this, most in vitro cancer research still relies primarily on cells grown in 2D and in isolation in nutrient- and oxygen-rich conditions. Here, a microfluidic device is presented that is easy to use and enables modelling and study of the tumour microenvironment in real-time. The versatility of this microfluidic platform allows for different aspects of the microenvironment to be monitored and dissected. This is exemplified here by real-time profiling of oxygen and glucose concentrations inside the device as well as effects on cell proliferation and growth, ROS generation and apoptosis. Heterotypic cell interactions were also studied. The device provides a live ‘window’ into the microenvironment and could be used to study cancer cells for which it is difficult to generate tumour spheroids. Another major application of the device is the study of effects of the microenvironment on cellular drug responses. Some data is presented for this indicating the device’s potential to enable more physiological in vitro drug screening.

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