ABSTRACT: We have developed a method for studying cellular adhesion by using a custom-designed microfluidic device with parallel non-connected tapered channels. The design enables investigation of cellular responses to a large range of shear stress (ratio of 25) with a single input flow-rate. For each shear stress, a large number of cells are analyzed (500-1500 cells), providing statistically relevant data within a single experiment. Besides adhesion strength measurements, the microsystem presented in this paper enables in-depth analysis of cell detachment kinetics by real-time videomicroscopy. It offers the possibility to analyze adhesion-associated processes, such as migration or cell shape change, within the same experiment. To show the versatility of our device, we examined quantitatively cell adhesion by analyzing kinetics, adhesive strength and migration behaviour or cell shape modifications of the unicellular model cell organism Dictyostelium discoideum at 21 °C and of the human breast cancer cell line MDA-MB-231 at 37 °C. For both cell types, we found that the threshold stresses, which are necessary to detach the cells, follow lognormal distributions, and that the detachment process follows first order kinetics. In addition, for particular conditions' cells are found to exhibit similar adhesion threshold stresses, but very different detachment kinetics, revealing the importance of dynamics analysis to fully describe cell adhesion. With its rapid implementation and potential for parallel sample processing, such microsystem offers a highly controllable platform for exploring cell adhesion characteristics in a large set of environmental conditions and cell types, and could have wide applications across cell biology, tissue engineering, and cell screening.
Biomicrofluidics 03/2012; 6(1):14107-1410712. · 3.37 Impact Factor