Development of a Microfluidic Culture Paradigm for Ex Vivo Maintenance of Human Glioblastoma Tissue: A New Glioblastoma Model?

Transl Oncol. 2020 Jan;13(1):1-10. doi: 10.1016/j.tranon.2019.09.002. Epub 2019 Nov 11.


Background: One way to overcome the genetic and molecular variations within glioblastoma is to treat each tumour on an individual basis. To facilitate this, we have developed a microfluidic culture paradigm that maintains human glioblastoma tissue ex vivo.

Methods: The assembled device, fabricated using a photolithographic process, is composed of two layers of glass bonded together to contain a tissue chamber and a network of microchannels that allow continued tissue perfusion.

Results: A total of 128 tissue biopsies (from 33 patients) were maintained in microfluidic devices for an average of 72 hours. Tissue viability (measured with Annexin V and propidium iodide) was 61.1% in tissue maintained on chip compared with 68.9% for fresh tissue analysed at commencement of the experiments. Other biomarkers, including lactate dehydrogenase absorbance and trypan blue exclusion, supported the viability of the tissue maintained on chip. Histological appearances remained unchanged during the tissue maintenance period, and immunohistochemical analysis of Ki67 and caspase 3 showed no significant differences when compared with fresh tissues. A trend showed that tumours associated with poorer outcomes (recurrent tumours and Isocitrate Dehydrogenase - IDH wildtype) displayed higher viability on chip than tumours linked with improved outcomes (low-grade gliomas, IDH mutants and primary tumours).

Conclusions: This work has demonstrated for the first time that human glioblastoma tissue can be successfully maintained within a microfluidic device and has the potential to be developed as a new platform for studying the biology of brain tumours, with the long-term aim of replacing current preclinical GBM models and facilitating personalised treatments.