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Annals of biomedical engineering

Biocompatible Optically Transparent MEMS for Micromechanical Stimulation and Multimodal Imaging of Living Cells.


PMID 25549773

Abstract

Cells and tissues in our body are continuously subjected to mechanical stress. Mechanical stimuli, such as tensile and contractile forces, and shear stress, elicit cellular responses, including gene and protein alterations that determine key behaviors, including proliferation, differentiation, migration, and adhesion. Several tools and techniques have been developed to study these mechanobiological phenomena, including micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS). MEMS provide a platform for nano-to-microscale mechanical stimulation of biological samples and quantitative analysis of their biomechanical responses. However, current devices are limited in their capability to perform single cell micromechanical stimulations as well as correlating their structural phenotype by imaging techniques simultaneously. In this study, a biocompatible and optically transparent MEMS for single cell mechanobiological studies is reported. A silicon nitride microfabricated device is designed to perform uniaxial tensile deformation of single cells and tissue. Optical transparency and open architecture of the device allows coupling of the MEMS to structural and biophysical assays, including optical microscopy techniques and atomic force microscopy (AFM). We demonstrate the design, fabrication, testing, biocompatibility and multimodal imaging with optical and AFM techniques, providing a proof-of-concept for a multimodal MEMS. The integrated multimodal system would allow simultaneous controlled mechanical stimulation of single cells and correlate cellular response.