Dr. Ivan Pushkarsky from the Department of Bioengineering at UCLA and Forcyte Biotechnologies, Inc. was awarded The President's Innovation Award at the Annual Society of Biomolecular Imaging and Informatics meeting held in San Diego, September 2017. All cell types produce mechanical forces to serve important physiological roles. Since aberrant force-generating phenotypes directly lead to disease, cellular force-generation mechanisms are high-value targets for new therapies. Despite knowledge of their significance in disease, drug developers have had limited access to force-generating cellular phenotypes, especially in the context of high-throughput screening. To serve this valuable need, we have developed a platform microtechnology called "FLECS" that can acquire robust contractility data from 1000s of uniformly patterned single cells simultaneously and seamlessly integrates with the 96- and 384-well plate formats to facilitate large-scale drug screens. This perspective discusses the challenges facing existing laboratory methods for measuring cellular force in the context of drug discovery. It then provides an overview of the FLECS platform, describes how it was designed to overcome many of these challenges, and discusses some exciting work already accomplished with FLECS. It concludes by highlighting the platform nature of the technology and the potential value that it promises for a myriad of drug development efforts.
Keywords: asthma; cellular force; contractility; force generation; hypertension; smooth muscle cells.