We use a microfluidic cell culture chip equipped with pneumatic microvalves to analyze the paracrine loop between lung cancer cells and fibroblasts. In order to assess the cellular responses in the paracrine loop, we measure the migration speeds of cancer cells and the aspect ratios of fibroblasts which reflect the phenotype of myofibroblasts. With well-controlled interaction sequences between these two types of cells, we verify that the cytokines from cancer cells effectively stimulate the fibroblasts into myofibroblasts. The cytokines from myofibroblasts, rather than fibroblasts, increase the migration speeds of cancer cells. We confirm that the transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) is involved in the interaction between cancer cells and fibroblasts, and we also interrupt this paracrine loop in the cell culture chip by inhibiting the TGF-β1 receptors on fibroblasts.
© The Royal Society of Chemistry 2011