Despite being invasive within surrounding brain tissues and the central nervous system, little is known about the mechanical properties of brain tumor cells in comparison with benign cells. Here, we present the first measurements of the peak pressure drop due to the passage of benign and cancerous brain cells through confined microchannels in a microfluidic cell squeezer device, as well as the elongation, speed, and entry time of the cells in confined channels. We find that cancerous and benign brain cells cannot be differentiated based on speeds or elongation. We have found that the entry time into a narrow constriction is a more sensitive indicator of the differences between malignant and healthy glial cells than pressure drops. Importantly, we also find that brain tumor cells take a longer time to squeeze through a constriction and migrate more slowly than benign cells in two dimensional wound healing assays. Based on these observations, we arrive at the surprising conclusion that the prevailing notion of extraneural cancer cells being more mechanically compliant than benign cells may not apply to brain cancer cells.
Khan, Z. S., S. A. Vanapalli