Dielectric spectroscopy platform to measure MCF10A epithelial cell aggregation as a model for spheroidal cell cluster analysis
3-Dimensional cell cultures are more representative of the native environment than traditional cell cultures on flat substrates. As a result, 3-dimensional cell cultures have emerged as a very valuable model environment to study tumorigenesis, organogenesis and tissue regeneration. Many of these models encompass the formation of cell aggregates, which mimic the architecture of tumor and organ tissue. Dielectric impedance spectroscopy is a non-invasive, label free and real time technique, overcoming the drawbacks of established techniques to monitor cell aggregates. Here we introduce a platform to monitor cell aggregation in a 3-dimensional extracellular matrix using dielectric spectroscopy. The MCF10A breast epithelial cell line serves as a model for cell aggregation. The platform maintains sterile conditions during the multi-day assay while allowing continuous dielectric spectroscopy measurements. The platform geometry optimizes dielectric measurements by concentrating cells within the electrode sensing region. The cells show a characteristic dielectric response to aggregation which corroborates with finite element analysis computer simulations. By fitting the experimental dielectric spectra to the Cole–Cole equation, we demonstrated that the dispersion intensity Δε and the characteristic frequency fc are related to cell aggregate growth. In addition, microscopy can be performed directly on the platform providing information about cell position, density and morphology. This platform could yield many applications for studying the electrophysiological activity of cell aggregates.