A highly effective, reagentless, mechanical cell lysis device integrated in microfluidic channels is reported. Sample preparation, specifically cell lysis, is a critical element in ‘lab-on-chip’ applications. However, traditional methods of cell lysis require purification steps or complicated fabrication steps that a simple mechanical method of lysis may avoid. A simple and effective mechanical cell lysis system is designed, microfabricated, and characterized to quantify the efficiency of cell lysis and biomolecule accessibility. The device functionality is based on a microfluidic filter region with nanostructured barbs created using a modified deep reactive ion etching process. Mechanical lysis is characterized by using a membrane impermeable dye. Three main mechanisms of micro-mechanical lysis are described. Quantitative measurements of accessible protein as compared to a chemically lysed sample are acquired with optical absorption measurements at 280 and 414 nm. At a flow rate of 300 µL min−1 within the filter region total protein and hemoglobin accessibilities of 4.8% and 7.5% are observed respectively as compared to 1.9% and 3.2% for a filter without nanostructured barbs.