Multi-sample deformability cytometry of cancer cells


There is growing recognition that cell deformability can play an important role in cancer metastasis and diagnostics. Advancement of methods to characterize cell deformability in a high throughput manner and the capacity to process numerous samples can impact cancer-related applications ranging from analysis of patient samples to discovery of anti-cancer compounds to screening of oncogenes. In this study, we report a microfluidic technique called multi-sample deformability cytometry (MS-DC) that allows simultaneous measurement of flow-induced deformation of cells in multiple samples at single-cell resolution using a combination of on-chip reservoirs, distributed pressure control, and data analysis system. Cells are introduced at rates of O(100) cells per second with a data processing speed of 10 min per sample. To validate MS-DC, we tested more than 50 cell-samples that include cancer cell lines with different metastatic potential and cells treated with several cytoskeletal-intervention drugs. Results from MS-DC show that (i) the cell deformability correlates with metastatic potential for both breast and prostate cancer cells but not with their molecular histotype, (ii) the strongly metastatic breast cancer cells have higher deformability than the weakly metastatic ones; however, the strongly metastatic prostate cancer cells have lower deformability than the weakly metastatic counterparts, and (iii) drug-induced disruption of the actin network, microtubule network, and actomyosin contractility increased cancer cell deformability, but stabilization of the cytoskeletal proteins does not alter deformability significantly. Our study demonstrates the capacity of MS-DC to mechanically phenotype tumor cells simultaneously in many samples for cancer research.


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Ahmmed, S.M., Bithi, S.S., Pore, A.A., Mubtasim, N., Schuster, C., Gollahon, L.S., & Vanapalli, S.A.. 2018. Multi-sample deformability cytometry of cancer cells. APL Bioengineering, 2(3).