Microfluidics for the Masses: Measuring Cell Growth Rates

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Selim Olcum, Nathan Cermak, Scott Manalis

This is a micrograph of a microfluidic chip that enables fast and precise measurement of single-cell growth.

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Selim Olcum, Nathan Cermak, Scott Manalis
Koch Institute at MIT

To understand cancer cells’ response to therapy, the Manalis lab measures how their masses change while exposed to drugs. The fluid-filled channels (bottom) connect tiny mass sensors in the form of hollow diving boards (top) whose vibrations precisely reveal the mass of individual cells passing through them.

As treated cells flow across the array of sensors, each cell is weighed multiple times, thereby revealing the rate at which individual cells change their mass. Researchers are now starting to use tumor cell measurements to predict optimal treatment strategy for individual patients.

This project is funded in part by the Bridge Project, a collaboration between MIT's Koch Institute and Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center.

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