Live single cell imaging assays in glass microwells produced by laser-induced deep etching†
Miniaturization of cell culture substrates enables controlled analysis of living cells in confined micro-scale environments. This is particularly suitable for imaging individual cells over time, as they can be monitored without escaping the imaging field-of-view (FoV). Glass materials are ideal for most microscopy applications. However, with current methods used in life sciences, glass microfabrication is limited in terms of either freedom of design, quality, or throughput. In this work, we introduce laser-induced deep etching (LIDE) as a method for producing glass microwell arrays for live single cell imaging assays. We demonstrate novel microwell arrays with deep, high-aspect ratio wells that have rounded, dimpled or flat bottom profiles in either single-layer or double-layer glass chips. The microwells are evaluated for microscopy-based analysis of long-term cell culture, clonal expansion, laterally organized cell seeding, subcellular mechanics during migration and immune cell cytotoxicity assays of both adherent and suspension cells. It is shown that all types of microwells can support viable cell cultures and imaging with single cell resolution, and we highlight specific benefits of each microwell design for different applications. We believe that high-quality glass microwell arrays enabled by LIDE provide a great option for high-content and high-resolution imaging-based live cell assays with a broad range of potential applications within life sciences.