A microfluidic pipette array for mechanophenotyping of cancer cells and mechanical gating of mechanosensitive channels†
Micropipette aspiration measures the mechanical properties of single cells. A traditional micropipette aspiration system requires a bulky infrastructure and has a low throughput and limited potential for automation. We have developed a simple microfluidic device which is able to trap and apply pressure to single cells in designated aspiration arrays. By changing the volume flow rate using a syringe pump, we can accurately exert a pressure difference across the trapped cells for pipette aspiration. By examining cell deformation and protrusion length into the pipette under an optical microscope, several important cell mechanical properties, such as the cortical tension and the Young's modulus, can be measured quantitatively using automated image analysis. Using the microfluidic pipette array, the stiffness of breast cancer cells and healthy breast epithelial cells was measured and compared. Finally, we applied our device to examine the gating threshold of the mechanosensitive channel MscL expressed in mammalian cells. Together, the development of a microfluidic pipette array could enable rapid mechanophenotyping of individual cells and for mechanotransduction studies.