A Microfluidic Dielectric Spectroscopy System for Characterization of Biological Cells in Physiological Media

This article was originally published here

Sensors (Basel). 2022 Jan 8;22(2):463. doi: 10.3390/s22020463.


Dielectric spectroscopy (DS) is a promising cell screening method that can be used for diagnostic and drug discovery purposes. The primary challenge of using DS in physiological buffers is the electrode polarization (EP) that overwhelms the impedance signal within a large frequency range. These effects further amplify with the miniaturization of the measurement electrodes. In this study, we present a microfluidic system and the associated equivalent circuit models for real-time measurements of cell membrane capacitance and cytoplasm resistance in physiological buffers with 10 s increments. The current device captures several hundreds of biological cells in individual microwells through gravitational settling and measures the system’s impedance using microelectrodes covered with dendritic gold nanostructures. Using PC-3 cells (a highly metastatic prostate cancer cell line) suspended in cell growth media (CGM), we demonstrate stable measurements of cell membrane capacitance and cytoplasm resistance in the device for over 15 min. We also describe a consistent application of the equivalent circuit model, starting from the reference measurements used to determine the system parameters. The circuit model is tested using devices with varying dimensions, and the obtained cell parameters between different devices are nearly identical. Further analyses of the impedance data have shown that accurate cell membrane capacitance and cytoplasm resistance can be extracted using a limited number of measurements in the 5 MHz to 10 MHz range. This will potentially reduce the timescale required for real-time DS measurements below 1 s. Overall, the new microfluidic device can be used for the dielectric characterization of biological cells in physiological buffers for various cell screening applications.

PMID:35062423 | DOI:10.3390/s22020463