Chemotaxis assays are essential tools for the study of gradient sensing and directed cell migration, and have the potential to aid in the diagnosis and characterization of patients with immune disorders. Current methods are limited in their ability to meet the more demanding requirements for clinical applications. Because patient samples have a short lifespan and sometimes a limited volume (e.g. pediatrics), the operational requirements for an efficient chemotaxis assay are increased in the clinical setting. Here we describe a microscale assay platform for gradient generation that overcomes these limitations. Passive fluidic methods are leveraged to provide a reliable microfluidic gradient generation device, operable in only three pipetting steps. In addition, arrayed imaging and advanced cell tracking algorithms enabled a 50-fold increase in throughput over current methods. These methods were employed to aid in the diagnostic evaluation of an infant who presented with severe, recurrent bacterial infections. Analysis of the infant’s neutrophils revealed impaired cell polarization and chemotaxis in a gradient of the chemoattractant fMLP. The patient was subsequently diagnosed with an inhibitory mutation in the Rho GTPase, Rac2. The approach also enabled a microenvironmental screen of human primary neutrophil chemotaxis on fibronectin, fibrinogen and laminin with results suggesting that fibronectin, athough commonly used, may not be the most appropriate matrix protein for chemotaxis assays. Together, these findings demonstrate the use of arrayed micro-devices to aid in the diagnosis of a primary immunodeficiency disorder, and illustrate the capability for increased throughput microenvironmental studies and screening targeted to specific human diseases.
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