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Alterations in cancer cell mechanical properties after fluid shear stress exposure: a micropipette aspiration study

Authors Chivukula V, Krog B, Nauseef J, Henry M, Vigmostad S

Received 28 July 2014

Accepted for publication 12 September 2014

Published 9 January 2015 Volume 2015:7 Pages 25—35


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Professor Denis Wirtz

Venkat Keshav Chivukula,1 Benjamin L Krog,1,2 Jones T Nauseef,2 Michael D Henry,2 Sarah C Vigmostad1

1Department of Biomedical Engineering, 2Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Iowa, Seamans Center for the Engineering Arts and Sciences, Iowa City, IA, USA

Abstract: Over 90% of cancer deaths result not from primary tumor development, but from metastatic tumors that arise after cancer cells circulate to distal sites via the circulatory system. While it is known that metastasis is an inefficient process, the effect of hemodynamic parameters such as fluid shear stress (FSS) on the viability and efficacy of metastasis is not well understood. Recent work has shown that select cancer cells may be able to survive and possibly even adapt to FSS in vitro. The current research seeks to characterize the effect of FSS on the mechanical properties of suspended cancer cells in vitro. Nontransformed prostate epithelial cells (PrEC LH) and transformed prostate cancer cells (PC-3) were used in this study. The Young's modulus was determined using micropipette aspiration. We examined cells in suspension but not exposed to FSS (unsheared) and immediately after exposure to high (6,400 dyn/cm2) and low (510 dyn/cm2) FSS. The PrEC LH cells were ~140% stiffer than the PC-3 cells not exposed to FSS. Post-FSS exposure, there was an increase of ~77% in Young's modulus after exposure to high FSS and a ~47% increase in Young's modulus after exposure to low FSS for the PC-3 cells. There was no significant change in the Young's modulus of PrEC LH cells post-FSS exposure. Our findings indicate that cancer cells adapt to FSS, with an increased Young's modulus being one of the adaptive responses, and that this adaptation is specific only to PC-3 cells and is not seen in PrEC LH cells. Moreover, this adaptation appears to be graded in response to the magnitude of FSS experienced by the cancer cells. This is the first study investigating the effect of FSS on the mechanical properties of cancer cells in suspension, and may provide significant insights into the mechanism by which some select cancer cells may survive in the circulation, ultimately leading to metastasis at distal sites. Our findings suggest that biomechanical analysis of cancer cells could aid in identifying and diagnosing cancer in the future.

Keywords: cancer, metastasis, fluid shear stress, micropipette aspiration, elastic modulus

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