Background: To date, biological components have been incorporated into MEMS devices to create cell-based sensors and assays, motors and actuators, and pumps. Bio-MEMS technologies present a unique opportunity to study fundamental biological processes at a level unrealized with previous methods. The capability to miniaturize analytical systems enables researchers to perform multiple experiments in parallel and with a high degree of control over experimental variables for high-content screening applications.
Methodology/principal findings: We have demonstrated a biological microelectromechanical system (BioMEMS) based on silicon cantilevers and an AFM detection system for studying the physiology and kinetics of myotubes derived from embryonic rat skeletal muscle. It was shown that it is possible to interrogate and observe muscle behavior in real time, as well as selectively stimulate the contraction of myotubes with the device. Stress generation of the tissue was estimated using a modification of Stoney's equation. Calculated stress values were in excellent agreement with previously published results for cultured myotubes, but not adult skeletal muscle. Other parameters such as time to peak tension (TPT), the time to half relaxation ((1/2)RT) were compared to the literature. It was observed that the myotubes grown on the BioMEMS device, while generating stress magnitudes comparable to those previously published, exhibited slower TPT and (1/2)RT values. However, growth in an enhanced media increased these values. From these data it was concluded that the myotubes cultured on the cantilevers were of an embryonic phenotype. The system was also shown to be responsive to the application of a toxin, veratridine.
Conclusions/significance: The device demonstrated here will provide a useful foundation for studying various aspects of muscle physiology and behavior in a controlled high-throughput manner as well as be useful for biosensor and drug discovery applications.