Altered deformability of cancer cells, being the manifestation of cancer-related changes, can discriminate between healthy and cancerous states. The large degree of cancer cell heterogeneity in solid tumors (containing populations of cells with similar or nearly similar deformability) limits identifying a specific population of cells forming metastasis. One of the obstacles is a lack of reliable, high-throughput characterization methods that qualitatively and reliably can detect mechanically altered cells in biological samples characterized by a large degree of heterogeneity. The BioMechCanDet project aims to combine a microfluidic approach with selective cell capturing and quantitative determination of cell nanomechanical fingerprints to enhance the identification of mechanically altered cells, also within cell populations with mechanical heterogeneity.

The objectives of the project are:

Objective 1. To develop and investigate a novel generation of microfluidic devices combined with a microarrays approach and with surfaces of biomimetic hydrogels to select a particular cell population.

Objective 2. To understand the mechanisms of viscoelastic changes in cells flowing through microfluidic channels by using model substances of various rheological properties.

Objective 3. To determine mechanical/rheological properties of cells used, further to define criteria for effective recognition of altered cells.

Objective 4. To determine the biomechanical detectability level in cancer cell systems characterized by a large and small deformability difference.