It has been our great pleasure to interview Iñaki Ochoa, head of the Research Group with which we collaborate to develop the latest technologies in Cell Culture.
It is a group specialized in oncology; that is, they perform treatments for cancer. The group is known for having developed the most advanced model in the world of glioblastoma; one of the most dangerous cancers.
Let´s see what he has to tell us!
microLIQUID: Problems encountered with conventional Cell Culture methods, and the solutions offered by Microfluidic Cell Culture:
Iñaki Ochoa: The conventional Cell Culture methods that are used today are based mainly on two-dimensional cultures performed on plastic plates. The cells are placed or “planted” at the bottom of these plates. To provide them with nutrients, a liquid, or culture medium, is added on top of them. This liquid provides the necessary nutrients. These plates require a gaseous connection to the outside in order to access the essential gases (such as oxygen) to maintain viable cells. As can easily be concluded, our body is not two-dimensional, nor do our cells live in isolatiom from each other. Under current culture conditions, the cells lack an environment similar to that of our body. Cells in the laboratory do not grow under three-dimensional conditions, they have an excess of essential elements (nutrients, oxygen, etc.) and, in addition, they lack interaction with other cell types for in vivo communication.
microLIQUID: Advantage of the Microfluidic Cell Culture:
Iñaki Ochoa: A Microfluidic Cell Culture provides many advantages when compared with a traditional culture. Firstly, it allows the generation of mechanical stimulation, either through the appliance of liquid flow (real conditions in blood vessels) or substrate deformations similar to those produced in tissues under physiological conditions. In addition, microfluidic devices allow for the distribution of different cell types in an organized 3D environment that simulates the spatial distribution that can be found in vivo. Another of the biggest advantages compared to traditional cultures is that Microfluidic Cell Culture allows the generation of gradients, whether they are induced by the researcher or self-generated as a result of the culture conditions. In this same sense, we can control the concentration and distribution of small molecules (such as oxygen), as supply can be undertaken solely through the channels and not through the material or the medium that covers the cells.
microLIQUID: Most important techniques used:
Iñaki Ochoa: The fabrication techniques for these devices are several and can include the use of SU8 molds to create channels and chambers in PDMS using soft lithography techniques, hot-embossing on polymer materials, injection molding or fabrication with 3D printing. In this aspect, microLIQUID could provide deep knowledge as they have been able to produce for us many different working prototypes for Cell Culture using a variety of techniques. As we learned from them, the production strategy depends on many factors such as desired chip structural material, complexity of structures or expected number of chips required.
The techniques that can be undertaken with microfluidic devices to evaluate cell behavior are also multiple and they range from more advanced microscopy techniques to immunohistological techniques and even the more general molecular biology techniques used in most laboratories.
microLIQUID: Basic requirements for Microfluidic Cell Culture:
Iñaki Ochoa: This is a topic that the scientific community has yet to agree on. There are many ways of using microfluidic devices for Cell Culture and not all simulate the physiological behavior of an organ or tissue. In order to clarify all of these issues, a European consortium has been created, ORCHID (ORgan-on-CHIp in Development), in which criteria, requirements, and standards are being defined for fabrication, with the aim of creating a roadmap of this technology’s evolution in Europe.
microLIQUID: Applications in which Microfluidic Cell Culture is used:
Iñaki Ochoa: At this time, the majority of applications focus on the recreation of an organ’s basic functions. Models have been developed that simulate organs such as the kidney, lung, liver, intestine, etc. In addition to physiological models (the majority of which are used as new toxicological models that aim to reduce the use of animals for experimentation), various pathological models have been developed, amongst which those that attempt to simulate the cancer microenvironment are noteworthy of mention. The main function of these models is to try to find new therapeutic targets, evaluate the effectiveness of new drugs, and try to predict the response of the different approved drugs for each patient (personalized medicine).
microLIQUID: Materials used and the best options?
Iñaki Ochoa: There are many materials that allow for microfluidic device fabrication. The most commonly used material, because of its ease of use in terms of handling and fabrication, is PDMS. However, thermoplastic materials, such as polystyrene (PS) or cyclic olefin polymers (COC and COP), are becoming a very interesting alternative because of their ability to be injected for mass fabrication.
Thank you very much Iñaki!