Thursday, May 25, 2017

Characterization of biomechanical properties of cells through dielectrophoresis-based cell stretching and actin cytoskeleton modeling

Guohua Bai, Ying Li, Henry K. Chu, Kaiqun Wang, Qiulin Tan, Jijun Xiong and Dong Sun

Cytoskeleton is a highly dynamic network that helps to maintain the rigidity of a cell, and the mechanical properties of a cell are closely related to many cellular functions. This paper presents a new method to probe and characterize cell mechanical properties through dielectrophoresis (DEP)-based cell stretching manipulation and actin cytoskeleton modeling. Leukemia NB4 cells were used as cell line, and changes in their biological properties were examined after chemotherapy treatment with doxorubicin (DOX). DEP-integrated microfluidic chip was utilized as a low-cost and efficient tool to study the deformability of cells. DEP forces used in cell stretching were first evaluated through computer simulation, and the results were compared with modeling equations and with the results of optical stretching (OT) experiments. Structural parameters were then extracted by fitting the experimental data into the actin cytoskeleton model, and the underlying mechanical properties of the cells were subsequently characterized. The DEP forces generated under different voltage inputs were calculated and the results from different approaches demonstrate good approximations to the force estimation. Both DEP and OT stretching experiments confirmed that DOX-treated NB4 cells were stiffer than the untreated cells. The structural parameters extracted from the model and the confocal images indicated significant change in actin network after DOX treatment. The proposed DEP method combined with actin cytoskeleton modeling is a simple engineering tool to characterize the mechanical properties of cells.

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