Study of diffusive- and convective-transport mediated microtumor growth in a controlled microchamber

  • Yu-Hsiang HsuEmail author
  • Wei-Wen Liu
  • Tung-Han Wu
  • Carina Jean-Tien Lee
  • Yu-Hsi Chen
  • Pai-Chi Li


In this paper, we report on using mass transport to control nutrition supply of colorectal cancer cells for developing a microtumor in a confined microchamber. To mimic the spatial heterogeneity of a tumor, two microfluidic configurations based on resistive circuits are designed. One has a convection-dominated microchamber to simulate the tumor region proximal to leaky blood vessels. The other has a diffusion-dominated microchamber to mimic the tumor core that lacks blood vessels and nutrient supply. Thus, the time for nutrition to fill the microchamber can vary from tens of minutes to several hours. Results show that cells cultured under a diffusive supply of nutrition have a high glycolytic rate and a nearly constant oxygen consumption rate. In contrast, cells cultured under convective supply of nutrition have a gradual increase of oxygen consumption rate with a low glycolytic rate. This suggests that cancer cells have distinct reactions under different mass transport and nutrition supply. Using these two microfluidic platforms to create different rate of nutrition supply, it is found that a continuous microtumor that almost fills the mm-size microchamber can be developed under a low-nutrient supply environment, but not for the convective condition. It also is demonstrated that microchannels can simulate the delivery of anti-cancer drugs to the microtumor under controlled mass-transport. This method provides a means to develop a larger scale microtumor in a lab-on-a-Chip system for post development and stimulations, and microchannels can be applied to control the physical and chemical environment for anti-cancer drug screening.


Tumor-on-a-Chip Mass transport Microfluidics Tumor metabolic Drug screening 



This work was supported by the National Health Research Institutes, Taiwan (NHRI-EX106-10624EI) and the Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan (MOST 103-2221-E-002-161-MY2 & MOST 105-2221-E-002-230-MY3).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Applied MechanicsNational Taiwan UniversityTaipeiRepublic of China
  2. 2.Institute of Biomedical Electronics and BioinformaticsNational Taiwan UniversityTaipeiRepublic of China

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