Rapid characterization of the biomechanical properties of drug-treated cells in a microfluidic device

Xiaofei Zhang, Kar Hang Chu, Yang Zhang, Guohua Bai, Kaiqun Wang, Qiulin Tan, Dong Sun

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Cell mechanics is closely related to many cell functions. Recent studies have suggested that the deformability of cells can be an effective biomarker to indicate the onset and progression of diseases. In this paper, a microfluidic chip is designed for rapid characterization of the mechanics of drug-treated cells through stretching with dielectrophoresis (DEP) force. This chip was fabricated using PDMS and micro-electrodes were integrated and patterned on the ITO layer of the chip. Leukemia NB4 cells were considered and the effect of all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) drug on NB4 cells were examined via the microfluidic chip. To induce a DEP force onto the cell, a relatively weak ac voltage was utilized to immobilize a cell at one side of the electrodes. The applied voltage was then increased to 3.5 V pp and the cell started to be stretched along the applied electric field lines. The elongation of the cell was observed using an optical microscope and the results showed that both types of cells were deformed by the induced DEP force. The strain of the NB4 cell without the drug treatment was recorded to be about 0.08 (time t = 180 s) and the drug-treated NB4 cell was about 0.21 (time t = 180 s), indicating a decrease in the stiffness after drug treatment. The elastic modulus of the cell was also evaluated and the modulus changed from 140 Pa to 41 Pa after drug treatment. This microfluidic chip can provide a simple and rapid platform for measuring the change in the biomechanical properties of cells and can potentially be used as the tool to determine the biomechanical effects of different drug treatments for drug discovery and development applications.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105004
JournalJournal of Micromechanics and Microengineering
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sept 2015


  • dielectrophoresis
  • drug treatment
  • leukemia cell
  • stiffness
  • stretching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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