Posted by: Dan | May 17, 2006

Towards a Microfluidic Platform for Differential Analysis of Metastasis Inhibitors

An interesting article that popped up on my Pubcrawler alerts yesterday was a new paper in Biomedical Microdevices from the Jeon lab at UC Irvine. In it, Saadi et al. describe quantitative analysis of growth factor-induced chemotaxis of breast cancer cells.

The results themselves aren’t terribly dramatic in the big scheme of things – demonstrating that epidermal growth factor (EGF) acted as a significant attractant of metastatic cells even at low concentrations – but this article is worth taking note for two reasons:

First, well, it relates to my current research. I’ve adapted the microfluidic networks that Noo Li Jeon developed in 2000 to studying directional migration on fibronectin gradients, and am using it to manipulate expression levels of key proteins in motility (transfections, etc.) to understand the signal transduction events related to haptotaxis. Obviously I think these microdevices offer the potential to study chemotaxis-related signal transduction – but this system makes it difficult to collect enough useful data in a timely manner.

So it’s possible, in concept, to use these microdevices to broadly advance our knowledge of chemotactic signaling, but the throughput is frustratingly slow.

Second, Saadi et al. offers a not-so different possibility: differential analysis of various pharmaceutical inhibitors, broadening the method’s appeal, to be included in the drug-screening repertoire as well as for basic signal transduction research.

Maybe I’m just jaded, and looking forward to a postdoc and new project, but I think this approach is limited in its potential as well. It’s interesting, no doubt, but its ability to facilitate rapid scientific progress in pharmacology and cell biology just isn’t there.


  • A parallel-gradient microfluidic chamber for quantitative analysis of breast cancer cell chemotaxis. Saadi W, Wang SJ, Lin F, Jeon NL. Biomed Microdevices. 2006 Jun; 8(2):109-18. Pubmed
  • Using microfluidic channel networks to generate gradients for studying cell migration. Rhoads DS, Nadkarni SM, Song L, Voeltz C, Bodenschatz E, Guan JL. Methods Mol Biol. 2005; 294:347-57. Pubmed


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