Cell Mol Bioeng. 2023 Jul 28;16(5-6):443-457. doi: 10.1007/s12195-023-00773-z. eCollection 2023 Dec.
INTRODUCTION: Cell proliferation represents a major hallmark of cancer biology, and manifests itself in the assessment of tumor growth, drug resistance and metastasis. Tracking cell proliferation or cell fate at the single-cell level can reveal phenotypic heterogeneity. However, characterization of cell proliferation is typically done in bulk assays which does not inform on cells that can proliferate under given environmental perturbations. Thus, there is a need for single-cell approaches that allow longitudinal tracking of the fate of a large number of individual cells to reveal diverse phenotypes.
METHODS: We fabricated a new microfluidic architecture for high efficiency capture of single tumor cells, with the capacity to monitor cell divisions across multiple daughter cells. This single-cell proliferation (SCP) device enabled the quantification of the fate of more than 1000 individual cancer cells longitudinally, allowing comprehensive profiling of the phenotypic heterogeneity that would be otherwise masked in standard cell proliferation assays. We characterized the efficiency of single cell capture and demonstrated the utility of the SCP device by exposing MCF-7 breast tumor cells to different doses of the chemotherapeutic agent doxorubicin.
RESULTS: The single cell trapping efficiency of the SCP device was found to be ~ 85%. At the low doses of doxorubicin (0.01 µM, 0.001 µM, 0.0001 µM), we observed that 50-80% of the drug-treated cells had undergone proliferation, and less than 10% of the cells do not proliferate. Additionally, we demonstrated the potential of the SCP device in circulating tumor cell applications where minimizing target cell loss is critical. We showed selective capture of breast tumor cells from a binary mixture of cells (tumor cells and white blood cells) that was isolated from blood processing. We successfully characterized the proliferation statistics of these captured cells despite their extremely low counts in the original binary suspension.
CONCLUSIONS: The SCP device has significant potential for cancer research with the ability to quantify proliferation statistics of individual tumor cells, opening new avenues of investigation ranging from evaluating drug resistance of anti-cancer compounds to monitoring the replicative potential of patient-derived cells.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s12195-023-00773-z.