New Laser Technique Slashes Cancer Research Costs

In a move that slashes 90 percent of the cost of mass-producing metastatic microtumors and therapeutic microtissues for screening and research, Rice University bioengineers have adapted techniques from the 'maker' movement to reprogram a commercial laser cutter to etch up to 50,000 tiny 'microwells' per hour into sheets of silicone. The fabrication technique was developed with open-source software and hardware. The cost-saving microwell fabrication technique uses a commercial CO2 laser to fire millisecond laser pulses at a sheet of poly(dimethylsiloxane), a silicone-based organic and biocompatible polymer. "Microwells can be used to grow tiny clusters of cells," said Rice bioengineering researcher Jordan Miller, the lead researcher on the new study. "These clusters, or multicellular aggregates, contain 50-100 cells and have many potential applications, but they have been difficult to mass-produce."