Microtissue size and cell-cell communication modulate cell migration in arrayed 3D collagen gels

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Nuhn, Jacob A. M.
Gong, Shenmin
Que, Long
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Schneider, Ian
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Electrical and Computer Engineering

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECpE) contains two focuses. The focus on Electrical Engineering teaches students in the fields of control systems, electromagnetics and non-destructive evaluation, microelectronics, electric power & energy systems, and the like. The Computer Engineering focus teaches in the fields of software systems, embedded systems, networking, information security, computer architecture, etc.

The Department of Electrical Engineering was formed in 1909 from the division of the Department of Physics and Electrical Engineering. In 1985 its name changed to Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering. In 1995 it became the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

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  • Department of Electrical Engineering (1909-1985)
  • Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering (1985-1995)

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Genetics, Development and Cell Biology

The Department of Genetics, Development, and Cell Biology seeks to teach subcellular and cellular processes, genome dynamics, cell structure and function, and molecular mechanisms of development, in so doing offering a Major in Biology and a Major in Genetics.

The Department of Genetics, Development, and Cell Biology was founded in 2005.

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Chemical and Biological Engineering

The function of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering has been to prepare students for the study and application of chemistry in industry. This focus has included preparation for employment in various industries as well as the development, design, and operation of equipment and processes within industry.Through the CBE Department, Iowa State University is nationally recognized for its initiatives in bioinformatics, biomaterials, bioproducts, metabolic/tissue engineering, multiphase computational fluid dynamics, advanced polymeric materials and nanostructured materials.

The Department of Chemical Engineering was founded in 1913 under the Department of Physics and Illuminating Engineering. From 1915 to 1931 it was jointly administered by the Divisions of Industrial Science and Engineering, and from 1931 onward it has been under the Division/College of Engineering. In 1928 it merged with Mining Engineering, and from 1973–1979 it merged with Nuclear Engineering. It became Chemical and Biological Engineering in 2005.

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1913 - present

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  • Department of Chemical Engineering (1913–1928)
  • Department of Chemical and Mining Engineering (1928–1957)
  • Department of Chemical Engineering (1957–1973, 1979–2005)
    • Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (2005–present)

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Cells communicate through the extracellular matrix (ECM) in many physiological and pathological processes. This is particularly important during cell migration, where cell communication can alter both the speed and the direction of migration. However, most cell culture systems operate with large volumes relative to cell numbers, creating low cell densities and diluting factors that mediate cell communication. Furthermore, they lack the ability to isolate single cells or small groups of cells. Droplet forming devices allow for an ability to embed single or small groups of cells into small volume segregated 3D environments, increasing the cell density to physiological levels. In this paper we show a microfluidic droplet device for fabricating 3D collagen-based microtissues to study breast cancer cell motility. MDA-MB-231 cells fail to spread and divide in small, thin chambers. Cell migration is also stunted as compared to thick 3D gels. However, larger chambers formed by a thicker devices promote cell spreading, cell division and faster migration. In the large devices, both cell-ECM and cell-cell interactions affect cell motility. Increasing collagen density decreases cell migration and increasing the number of cells per chamber increases cell migration speed. Furthermore, cells appear to sense both the ECM-chamber wall interface as well as other cells. Cells migrate towards the ECM-chamber interface if within roughly 150 μm, whereas cells further than 150 μm tend to move towards the center of the chamber. Finally, while cells do not show enhanced movement towards the center of mass of a cell cluster, their migration speed is more variable when further away from the cell cluster center of mass. These results show that microfluidic droplet devices can array 3D collagen gels and promote cell spreading, division and migration similar to what is seen in thick 3D collagen gels. Furthermore, they can provide a new avenue to study cell migration and cell-cell communication at physiologically relevant cell densities.


This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Biomedical Microdevices. The final authenticated version is available online at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10544-018-0309-1. Posted with permission.

Mon Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2018