What is the Difference Between Invasion and Cell Migration Assays?

Many biomedical research projects revolve around analysis of the cell. Information about cell types, cell proliferation, cell count, and cell migration is critical to advancing disease treatment and health studies. To extract this knowledge, scientists rely on various types of assays that focus on characterizing a specific property or function of target cell types. This blog post will provide a brief overview of the difference between invasion and cell migration assays, with an emphasis on cell migration assays from Platypus Technologies.

Invasion Assays

Tumor cells can be metastatic, meaning they invade healthy tissue in the host by degrading extracellular matrix proteins and transversing extracellular membranes1. Once they have invaded, these tumor cells can establish more metastatic colonies in other tissues of the host, causing cancer to spread. Invasion assays evaluate cell movement across such extracellular boundaries and are especially useful in revealing mechanisms behind the invasion of cancer cells2.

A way to conduct an invasion assay includes using a Boyden Chamber assay – which can also be used in cell migration assays. There are two individually stacked chambers separated by a filter of extracellular matrix proteins and basement membranes in this setup. A suspension of live cells is added to the top chamber and the cell movement through the filter as it degrades and invades the lower chamber is assessed and quantified2.

Cell Migration Assays

Though invasion assays and cell migration assays are often used together in cancer research, they do boast differences. Cell migration assays are mainly utilized for measuring the movement of cells across a transversable membrane and can be applied to drug discovery and wound healing in addition to cancer research2. Cell migration assays are widely applicable because cellular migration is a key function of live cells in immune responses like inflammation and cancer metastasis3.

One type of cell migration assay is the scratch assay used in studying wound closure. To conduct this assay a scratch is made on a cell culture and the rate of cell migration to close the injury is recorded and analyzed via different methods of live cell imaging and microscopy3.

A Boyden Chamber assay can also be used as a cell migration assay in cancer studies, providing insight into how cells adhere and migrate across the membrane separating the two chambers4. It is important to remember that cell migration assay data could conflict with cell invasion assay data, and thus it is integral to utilize powerful tools and consider the best type of assay to conduct for your specific purposes.

Cell Migration Assays from Platypus Technologies

Cell migration assays provide researchers with high quality results that are useful in advancing biomedical research projects. The team of dedicated scientists at Platypus Technologies is committed to developing cell analysis products such as cell migration assays with the unique research needs of investigators prioritized.

Fully 3D Cell Invasion Assays from Platypus Technologies

Fully 3D Cell Invasion Assays

Oris™ 3D Embedded Invasion assays deliver all the advantages of classic Oris™ while seeding cells and monitoring invasion entirely in 3D to maximize physiological relevance.

The Oris™ Cell Migration Assay by Platypus is a simple platform that promises publication-ready results through a 96 well plate platform with barriers to ensure consistent detection zones crucial to cell migration experiments. Platypus also designed Oris™ Pro High-Throughput Cell Migration Assays that are available in 96 or 384 well plates where a biocompatible gel creates effective detection zones for cell migration studies.

These technologies not only help produce reliable and replicable data, but also makes the research process faster. If you are interested in learning more about our cell migration assays and implementing them into your laboratory experiments, please request a quote or submit a message to a member of our experienced team.


  1. Cell Migration & Invasion Assays. (2022). Sigmaaldrich.com.
  2. Cell Invasion Assays. (2022). Www.rndsystems.com. https://www.rndsystems.com/products/cell-invasion-assays#:~:text=The%20Cell%20Invasion%20Assays%20offer,chemoattractants%20and%2For%20inhibiting%20compounds. ‌
  3. Justus, C. R., Leffler, N., Ruiz-Echevarria, M., & Yang, L. V. (2014). In vitro Cell Migration and Invasion Assays. Journal of Visualized Experiments88. https://doi.org/10.3791/51046

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