Microfluidic-based human prostate-cancer-on-chip

Linan Jiang, Hunain Khawaja, Shekha Tahsin, Tanjia A. Clarkson, Cindy K. Miranti, Yitshak Zohar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Lack of adequate models significantly hinders advances in prostate cancer treatment, where resistance to androgen-deprivation therapies and bone metastasis remain as major challenges. Current in vitro models fail to faithfully mimic the complex prostate physiology. In vivo animal models can shed light on the oncogenes involved in prostate cancer development and progression; however, the animal prostate gland is fundamentally different from that of human, and the underlying genetic mechanisms are different. To address this problem, we developed the first in vitro microfluidic human Prostate-Cancer-on-Chip (PCoC) model, where human prostate cancer and stromal fibroblast cells were co-cultivated in two channels separated by a porous membrane under culture medium flow. The established microenvironment enables soluble signaling factors secreted by each culture to locally diffuse through the membrane pores affecting the neighboring culture. We particularly explored the conversion of the stromal fibroblasts into cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) due to the interaction between the 2 cell types. Immunofluorescence microscopy revealed that tumor cells induced CAF biomarkers, αSMA and COL1A1, in stromal fibroblasts. The stromal CAF conversion level was observed to increase along the flow direction in response to diffusion agents, consistent with simulations of solute concentration gradients. The tumor cells also downregulated androgen receptor (AR) expression in stromal fibroblasts, while an adequate level of stromal AR expression is maintained in normal prostate homeostasis. We further investigated tumor invasion into the stroma, an early step in the metastatic cascade, in devices featuring a serpentine channel with orthogonal channel segments overlaying a straight channel and separated by an 8 µm-pore membrane. Both tumor cells and stromal CAFs were observed to cross over into their neighboring channel, and the stroma’s role seemed to be proactive in promoting cell invasion. As control, normal epithelial cells neither induced CAF conversion nor promoted cell invasion. In summary, the developed PCoC model allows spatiotemporal analysis of the tumor-stroma dynamic interactions, due to bi-directional signaling and physical contact, recapitulating tissue-level multicellular responses associated with prostate cancer in vivo. Hence, it can serve as an in vitro model to dissect mechanisms in human prostate cancer development and seek advanced therapeutic strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1302223
JournalFrontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology
StatePublished - 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs)
  • microfluidics
  • organ-on-chip
  • prostate cancer
  • prostate tumor invasion
  • stromal fibroblasts
  • tumor microenvironment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Histology
  • Biomedical Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Microfluidic-based human prostate-cancer-on-chip'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this