Student projects

Development of a dynamic bioreactor for cancer metastasis research

Metastatic cancer cells travel with the blood stream to reach remote locations in the body. They squeeze through the endothelial cell lining of blood vessels, enter the surrounding tissue and form new tumors (Figure 2). The cancer cell passage (extravasation) occurs in a complex interplay with monocytes (a type of white blood cells) and various signaling molecules.

The aim of this project is to design and build a dynamic bioreactor to study the interaction of cancer, endothelial and white blood cells in a controlled environment. This in vitro system needs to reproduce both the biochemical and mechanical conditions that are encountered in vivo. In particular, the transient and pulsatile blood flow and the therewith associated shear stresses at the vessel wall have to be replicated.

During the previous semester, an initial reactor design has been defined (Figure 1) and modeled in Simulink. A first controller has been developed that shall be validated. This project will now focus on the design, implementation and testing of controllers in hardware and, if time allows, the building of a bioreactor prototype.

At the completion of this project a bioreactor prototype based on pressurized gas has been built and demonstrated to work. A number of shortcomings were identified and associated with the choice of gas valves and the peristaltic backflow pump which will be addressed in a future project.


Student: Martina Grab
Contact: For detailed information please contact Marianne Schmid, ML K 36.3, +41 44 632 24 47,, or Vartan Kurtcuoglu,, +41 44 635 50 55
Area: Bioengineering and Control Systems
Start: 1st of October 2013
End: 20th of December 2013
Duration: 13 weeks

  • Figure 1

  • Figure 2