Electrical and Computer Engineering Seminar Series

Putting the Pressure on Cancer


Sevgi Onal


PhD Student, The MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Canterbury

Time & Place

Fri, 26 Feb 2021 14:00:00 NZDT in Link 309 Lecture Theatre


Evidence continues to emerge that cancer is not only a disease of genetic mutations, but also of altered mechanobiological profiles of the cells and microenvironment. This mutation-independent element might be a key factor in promoting development and spread of cancer. Biomechanical forces regulate tumor microenvironment by solid stress, matrix mechanics, interstitial pressure and flow. Compressive stress by tumor growth and stromal tissue alters the cell deformation, and recapitulates the biophysical properties of cells to grow, differentiate, spread or invade. Such a solid stress can be introduced externally to change the cell response and to mechanically induce cell lysis by dynamic compression.

In this seminar I will present a microfluidic cell-culture platform with an integrated, actively-modulated actuator for the application of compressive forces on cancer cells. The platform is composed of a control microchannel in a top layer for introducing external force and a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) membrane with monolithically integrated actuators. The integrated actuator, herein called micro-piston, was used to apply compression on SKOV-3 ovarian cancer cells in a dynamic and controlled manner by modulating applied gas pressure, localization, shape and size of the micro-piston. I will demonstrate fabrication of the platform, characterization of the mechanical actuator experimentally and computationally, as well as cell loading and culture in the device. The seminar will further discuss use of the actuator to perform both, repeated dynamic cell compression at physiological pressure levels, and end-point mechanical cell lysis, demonstrating suitability for mechanical stimulation to study the role of compressive forces in cancer microenvironments.