Cell mechanics play a critical role in health and disease across diverse tissues. Yet our understanding of cell mechanical properties, as well as how cells sense and respond to the mechanical environment remains incomplete. A variety of techniques exist to study cell mechanics, each has its own benefits and limitations. Since no one technique is applicable to all cell mechanics assays, it is important to expand our cell mechanics toolbox. In this project, we will develop a dielectrophoretic device to apply non-contact compressive force to individual, attached cells. The hypothesis behind the proposed research is that that negative dielectrophoresis can be used to apply lateral compressive forces to single cells without physical contact. We will design a dielectrophoretic device for trapping and applying force to cells. Electric and force fields will be modeled in two and three dimensions, an electrode array will be designed to test multiple individual cells concurrently, and the device will be built with microfabrication techniques. We will then demonstrate device efficacy by trapping cells, allowing them to attach, and measuring cell mechanical properties with and without intact microtubules. Successful completion of this project will produce a unique device to expand our current cell mechanics toolbox. The ability to apply a non-contact compressive force to individual attached asymmetric cells will improve our understanding of cell mechanics in health and disease. This device, because it is coupled with a microfluidic system, could further be used to simultaneously and dynamically test single cells as they are exposed to environmental factors (cytokines, fluid flow) that alter cell mechanical properties. The dielectophoretic cell mechanics device has potential to advance our knowledge of cell mechanics in complex biochemical and mechanical situations.
Many diseases, including atherosclerosis and osteoarthritis, are related to altered cell mechanics. This project will create a unique device to test cell mechanics for a variety of situations. An improved understanding of cell mechanical properties, how they affect cell functions, and how they change in disease could help with diagnosis and treatment.
|Lownes Urbano, Rebecca; Morss Clyne, Alisa (2016) An inverted dielectrophoretic device for analysis of attached single cell mechanics. Lab Chip 16:561-73|