An open access microfluidic device for the study of the physical limits of cancer cell deformation during migration in confined environments

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issuepeer-review


Colleges, School and Institutes


During metastasis, cancerous cells leave the primary tumour, pass into the circulatory system, and invade into new tissues. To migrate through the wide variety of environments they encounter, the cells must be able to remodel their cell shape efficiently to squeeze through small gaps in the extracellular matrix or extravasate into the blood stream or lymphatic system. Several studies have shown that the nucleus is the main limiting factor to migration through small gaps (Wolf et al., 2013; Harada et al., 2014; Mak et al., 2013). To understand the physical limits of cancer cell translocation in confined environments, we have fabricated a microfluidic device to study their ability to adapt their nuclear and cellular shape when passing through small gaps. The device is open access for ease of use and enables examination of the effect of different levels of spatial confinement on cell behaviour and morphology simultaneously. The results show that increasing cell confinement decreases the ability of cells to translocate into small gaps and that cells cannot penetrate into the microchannels below a threshold cross-section.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-45
Number of pages4
JournalMicroelectronic Engineering
Early online date18 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - 16 Aug 2015


  • Microfluidics, Cell deformation, Breast cancer cells, Multilayer photolithography