Researchers from the University of Illinois are using a new type of microsensor to track the mass of individual colon cancer cells and their divisions. The cancer cells they studied grew faster as their mass increased, rather than showing a steady growth during the cell cycle.
The microsensor consists of a tiny suspended platform (50 microns wide) made out of silicon and on a chip that contains hundreds of sensors. The scale vibrates at a particular frequency that changes relative to the mass on the scale; the heavier the mass, the lower the sensor’s resonant frequency.
The researchers culture the cells on the chip similarly to how scientists grow cells in a dish. From this, data can be collected from many cells at once, as well as individual cellular measurements. Furthermore, cells can be imaged by microscopes while on the sensor so cells can be tracked visually while mass measurements are recorded. Our understanding about cellular division and growth may have many applications to drug development, basic biology, and the study of cancer.
Kidong Park, Larry J. Millet, Namjung Kim, Huan Li, Xiaozhong Jin, Gabriel Popescu, N. R. Aluru, K. Jimmy Hsia, and Rashid Bashir. Measurement of adherent cell mass and growth. PNAS, November 10, 2010 DOI:10.1073/pnas.1011365107