To date, cell state and function has primarily been probed by investigating biochemical properties. However intrinsic biophysical markers, such as cell deformability under a load, offer extended information about the cell while not necessarily requiring costly labeling or sample preparation.[Link] Cell mechanics, specifically, has been shown to be highly a sensitive marker in biology - as an indicator for a particular state or pathology.[Link]
We developed a microfluidic platform to advect live cells across confined channels by using a pressure differential. The cells can be taken from culture, advected and confined through the microfluidics. We show that during the course of differentiation of human myeloid precursor cells into three different lineages, the cells alter their viscoelastic properties, to suit their ultimate fate and function. Myeloid cells circulating in blood have to be advected through constrictions in blood vessels, engendering the need for compliance at short time-scales (less than a second). Intriguingly, only the two circulating myeloid cell types have increased short time scale compliance and flow better through microfluidic constrictions.[Link] We are currently investigating embryonic stem cells. By using Syto 13 dye, we can simultaneously measure cell and nuclear mechanics of the stem cells as they traverse the channels.