Cantilever Array Measures Cells | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: June 23, 2008

Cantilever Array Measures Cells

Device detects mass of individual cells attached to surface
Department: Science & Technology

A new array of microfabricated silicon cantilevers gives researchers a way to track the growth of individual adherent cells.

Common methods for characterizing single cells, such as flow cytometry, require that cells be suspended in a solution. But many so-called adherent cells, such as fibroblast and epithelial cells, must be attached to a surface to grow.

Rashid Bashir, a professor of electrical engineering, computer engineering, and bioengineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and coworkers at Purdue University, Harvard Medical School, and Ohio State University describe arrays of silicon cantilevers that can determine the mass of individual adherent cells without detaching them from the surface (Lab Chip, DOI: 10.1039/b803601b). The researchers calculate cell mass by measuring cell-growth-induced changes in each cantilever's resonance frequency, which is inversely proportional to the square root of its mass. Cells on the cantilever surface change the device's effective mass and thus its resonance frequency.

The researchers cultured cancer cells on the cantilevers and calculated the cells' mass from resonance frequency shifts of the cantilevers. The cells were smaller than normal, possibly because they were constrained by the size of the cantilevers. Because the cells don't need to be detached from the surface, the technology can be used for time-course studies of individual cells.

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