2D or 3D? How cell motility measurements are conserved across dimensions in vitro and translate in vivo


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Cell motility is a critical aspect of several processes, such as wound healing and immunity; however, it is dysregulated in cancer. Current limitations of imaging tools make it difficult to study cell migration in vivo. To overcome this, and to identify drivers from the microenvironment that regulate cell migration, bioengineers have developed 2D (two-dimensional) and 3D (three-dimensional) tissue model systems in which to study cell motility in vitro, with the aim of mimicking elements of the environments in which cells move in vivo. However, there has been no systematic study to explicitly relate and compare cell motility measurements between these geometries or systems. Here, we provide such analysis on our own data, as well as across data in existing literature to understand whether, and which, metrics are conserved across systems. To our surprise, only one metric of cell movement on 2D surfaces significantly and positively correlates with cell migration in 3D environments (percent migrating cells), and cell invasion in 3D has a weak, negative correlation with glioblastoma invasion in vivo. Finally, to compare across complex model systems, in vivo data, and data from different labs, we suggest that groups report an effect size, a statistical tool that is most translatable across experiments and labs, when conducting experiments that affect cellular motility.



breast cancer, cell migration, effect size, glioblastoma, invasion, metastasis