Recent research on cellular responses is shifting from static observations recorded under static stimuli to real-time monitoring in a dynamic environment. Since cells sense and interact with their surrounding microenvironment, an experimental platform where dynamically changing cellular microenvironments should be recreated in vitro. There has been a lack of microfluidic devices to support spatial and temporal stimulations in a simple and robust manner. Here, we describe a microfluidic device that generates dynamic chemical gradients and pulses in both space and time using a single device. This microfluidic device provides at least 12h of continuous stimulations that can be used to observe responses from mammalian cells. Combination of the microfluidic de-vice with live-cell imaging facilitates real-time observation of dynamic cellular response at single cell level. Using stable HEK cells with biosensors, ERK (Extracellular signal-Regulated Kinase) activities were observed un-der the pulsatile and ramping stimulations of EGF (Epidermal Growth Factor). We quantified ERK activation even at extremely low EGF concentration (0.0625µg/ml), which can not be observed using conventional techniques such as western blot. Cytoskeleton re-arrangement of the 3T3 fibroblast (stable transfection with Lifeact-GFP) was compared under abrupt and gradually changing gradient of PDGF.
Microfluidic platform for single cell analysis under dynamic spatial and temporal stimulation.