In a move that slashes 90 percent of the cost of mass-producing metastatic microtumors and therapeutic microtissues for screening and research, Rice University bioengineers have adapted techniques from the “maker” movementto reprogram a commercial laser cutter to etch up to 50,000 tiny “microwells” per hour into sheets of silicone.
The fabrication technique, which was developed with open-source software and hardware, is described in a new study published in the journal RSC Advances.
To study micrometastases in the lab, researchers grow multicellular aggregates of tumor cells. Traditionally, scientists have formed these by manually placing individual droplets of cells onto a plate using a pipette. But Miller said this method is labor-intensive, highly variable and typically produces small numbers of usable samples, which makes it impractical for studies that may require thousands of aggregates.