• Participating in the Race
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  • 1. Are you allowing mutants and engineered cells into the race?

    "Dirty" molecular tricks, genetic manipulations, or doping are not only allowed but are strongly encouraged !!! We will use wild type cells as reference.

  • 2. What is the race course?

    We are currently designing the shape and size of the microfluidic maze to be challenging for the cells to navigate, while keeping the average time to cross at about 2 hours. The design is now available on the Rules and Protocols page.

  • 3. What are the chemical gradients directing the migration of the cells inside the devices?

    There are specific chemicals that attract each cell. For Dicty, the chemical attractant is cAMP at 100nM concentration. For HL-60, the chemical attractant is fMLP at 100nM concentration. The gradients are established by diffusion between large reservoirs (to the right side in the movies) and the buffer solution in which the moving cells are (to the left in the movies). The steepest gradient is across the network of channels in the maze. The gradients are relatively stable for up to 4 hours, enough time for even the slowest cells to complete the race.

  • 4. Do you accept any "custom made" media with the cells?

    Unfortunately no. For logistic reasons, during this race we will only be using one cell culture media for Dicty and one for HL-60. The HL-60 media is based on IMEM supplemented with 10% fetal bovine serum. Cells will be exposed to this media during the race. Dicty cells will be grown in Formedium HL5 media and developed on agar. Cells will be exposed to developmental buffer during the race.

  • 5. Is there a way to prevent cell-cell cAMP signaling of Dicty cells during the race?

    Yes, teams will be allowed to add 3 mM caffeine to the race buffer. Other forms of chemical 'doping' to enhance cell speed and accuracy are also welcome.

  • 6. How do you determine the winner? Are cells competing as a population or as individuals?

    We will identify the first 500 cells to finish the race. We will group these 500 cells by the cell type. The winner will be the cell type with largest representation in the "top 100" group. In case of a tie, the cells making the least number of mistakes will be the winners. If there are fewer than 100 cells to finish the race in 2 hours, the winner will be the cell type with the largest number of cells to cross the finish line at the end of the 2 hours.

  • 7. Will participants get to test their cells before the final race?

    Yes, assays similar to those that we will use for the Race will be available to participating labs to practice and select their best strain. No previous experience with microfluidics required to work the assays. In fact, the race offers a great opportunity to learn!

  • 8. Why use time-lapse imaging for making the movies?

    Cells move slow, typically a body length every minute (and their body is just 10-20 microns long). To help visualize their progress we will be taking one frame every minute and then compiling these images to make a movie with a much faster playback rate.