A generalizable, tunable microfluidic platform for delivering fast temporally varying chemical signals to probe single-cell response dynamics.
Author: Loice Chingozha
Understanding how biological systems transduce dynamic, soluble chemical cues into physiological processes requires robust experimental tools for generating diverse temporal chemical patterns. The advent of microfluidics has seen the development of platforms for rapid fluid exchange allowing ease of changes in the cellular microenvironment and precise cell handling. Rapid exchange is important for exposing systems to temporally varying signals. However, direct coupling of macroscale fluid flow with microstructures is potentially problematic due to the high shear stresses that inevitably add confounding mechanical perturbation effects to the biological system of interest. Here, we have devised a method of translating fast and precise macroscale flows to microscale flows using a monolithically integrated perforated membrane. We integrated a high-density cell trap array for nonadherent cells that are challenging to handle under flow conditions with a soluble chemical signal generator module. The platform enables fast and repeatable switching of stimulus and buffer at low shear stresses for quantitative live, single-cell fluorescent studies. This modular design allows facile integration of any cell-handling chip design with any chemical delivery module. We demonstrate the utility of this device by characterizing heterogeneity of oscillatory response for cells exposed to alternating Ca(2+) waveforms at various periodicities. This platform enables the analysis of cell responses to chemical perturbations at a single-cell resolution that is necessary in understanding signal transduction pathways.