The profiling of physiological response of cells to external stimuli at the single cell level is of importance. Traditional approaches to study cell responses are often limited by ensemble measurement, which is challenging to reveal the complex single cell behaviors under a dynamic environment. Here we report the development of a simple microfluidic device to investigate intracellular calcium response to dynamic hypertonic conditions at the single cell level in real-time. Interestingly, a dramatic elevation in the intracellular calcium signaling is found in both suspension cells (human leukemic cell line, HL-60) and adherent cells (lung cancer cell line, A549), which is ascribed to the exposure of cells to the hydrodynamic stress. We also demonstrate that the calcium response exhibits distinct single cell heterogeneity as well as cell-type-dependent responses to the same stimuli. Our study opens up a new tool for tracking cellular activity at the single cell level in real time for high throughput drug screening.
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