Superfund Research Program

March 2019

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center recently developed a new test that rapidly measures the effect of different chemicals on cell survival. Measuring cell survival is critical for screening potentially toxic chemicals and protecting human health. The technology was developed as part of an NIEHS small business grant, with partial funding from the MIT SRP Center.

Led by Bevin Engelward, Ph.D., the team developed a test that can generate results in just a few days, rather than two or three weeks, while still matching the accuracy and sensitivity of traditional approaches. It also relies on automated rather than manual analyses to measure subtle changes in cell survival. Their method, called MicroColonyChip, was recently published in Cell Reports.

With the new method, they were able to accurately replicate results of previous studies using traditional approaches. According to the authors, the new technique can improve how new medical drugs are tested and can help environmental regulatory agencies responsible for testing chemicals work more efficiently.

The authors added that in the future, the MicroColonyChip may be useful in personalized medicine, where it could be used to test the effect of multiple drugs on a patient’s cells before beginning treatment. The researchers have filed for a patent on their new technology.

Images of cell growth
Images of cell growth on the MicroColonyChip over time, including 40X magnification. From Cell Reports 2019 26(6):1668-1678.e4. DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2019.01.053