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BellBrook Labs Develops new High Content Assay to Explore Tumor Cell Invasion in 3D Matrix

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BellBrook Labs announced the publication of studies on an enabling new approach for studying tumor cell invasion entitled “An Automated High-Content Assay for Tumor Cell Migration through 3-Dimensional Matrices,” in the October volume of Journal of Biomolecular Screening (JBS).

In the paper, Dr. Steven Hayes, Victoria Echeverria and their colleagues at BellBrook describe how the company’s iuvo™ Microconduit Array platform was used to overcome the limitations of current methods to enable development of an information-rich, 3D tumor cell invasion assay using automated high content analysis.

Metastasis is the predominant cause of death from cancer, and tumor cell migration is a key element in the metastatic process. Understanding how tumor cells invade other tissues and developing new drugs that block the process are fundamental challenges in cancer research. However, modeling tumor cell invasion the way it occurs in the body – three dimensional movement of cells through ECM (Extracellular Matrix) - has proven difficult, especially in an automated, high throughput format, largely because culturing and imaging cells in ECM in traditional mulitwell plates is problematic.

As described in the JBS paper, the BellBrook team was able to circumvent these difficulties by performing invasion assays in submicroliter channels in their recently developed iuvo™ Microchannel 5250 plates. Metastatic prostate cells were added to the liquid media compartment and allowed to migrate into the collagen-filled microchannels and automated microscopy was used to image the ultrathin assay compartments, generating quantitative data on the number of cells invading the matrix and distance traveled as well as effects on cell proliferation.

The study showed that that cell movement through ECM in the microchannels was truly 3-dimensional, and therefore, representative of the in vivo invasion process. In addition, quantitative potency measurements were obtained for known inhibitors of cell migration, as well as information on the effect of the inhibitors on cell health, demonstrating the utility of the assay for anti-cancer drug discovery. By using this newly-developed assay in their 3D ECM Invasion Assay Service, BellBrook can provide researchers with valuable information on how specifically their potential drug molecules target the invasion process.