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The next generation of cell-based assays

The advent of high-throughput (HT) technologies for molecular analysis demands parallel advancement in cell-based assays. In this context, European researchers developed arrays of cells grown on specialised adhesive matrices.
The next generation of cell-based assays
Mammalian cells constitute powerful in vitro tools for studying eukaryotic cell physiology and screening novel pharmacological compounds. HT assays utilise adherent immortalised cancer cell lines grown on plastic or glass surfaces coated with extracellular matrix components. However, these cells can divide and spread in a largely uncontrolled manner, leading to results with great variability. To overcome this limitation, scientists need to repeat analyses multiple times on large sample sizes to obtain statistically significant and reproducible results.

The primary objective of the EU-funded MEHTRICS (Micropattern-enhanced high throughput RNA interference for cell screening) project was to address this variability issue of the HT assays and maximise analysis throughput and overall cost effectiveness. For this purpose, MEHTRICS scientists proposed the development and application of controlled adhesive micropatterns as new growth substrates. The rationale behind this approach was that cell growth and behaviour would be highly homogeneous.

During the first phase of the project researchers optimised micropattern geometries and compositions and integrated the transfected cell array technique to decrease cost and increase throughput. Structuring and differentiating micropatterns were created for studying hypertrophy, inflammation, cancer growth and stem cell differentiation. Their results indicated that tight control of the microenvironment significantly improved assay performance and enabled the development of innovative and relevant assays for both industrial and academic applications.

The adhesive micropatterns of the MEHTRICS assay provided tight control of cell growth, reduced the need for cellular scale-up and at the same time improved assay comparability. The increased sample number per cell array also facilitated parallel microscopic readout using different approaches such as fluorescence live-time imaging or fluorescence correlation spectroscopy.

Often, experimental designs require the use of short interference RNA to delineate the role of various molecules in cell behaviour. This was made possible with the improved MEHTRICS assay and also extended its application to adult stem cells.

Related information


Life Sciences


Cell-based assays, high-throughput, extracellular matrix, micropattern, cell screening
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