Single-cell analysis of embryoid body heterogeneity using microfluidic trapping array

Biomed Microdevices. 2014 Feb;16(1):79-90. doi: 10.1007/s10544-013-9807-3.


The differentiation of pluripotent stem cells as embryoid bodies (EBs) remains a common method for inducing differentiation toward many lineages. However, differentiation via EBs typically yields a significant amount of heterogeneity in the cell population, as most cells differentiate simultaneously toward different lineages, while others remain undifferentiated. Moreover, physical parameters, such as the size of EBs, can modulate the heterogeneity of differentiated phenotypes due to the establishment of nutrient and oxygen gradients. One of the challenges in examining the cellular composition of EBs is the lack of analytical methods that are capable of determining the phenotype of all of the individual cells that comprise a single EB. Therefore, the objective of this work was to examine the ability of a microfluidic cell trapping array to analyze the heterogeneity of cells comprising EBs during the course of early differentiation. The heterogeneity of single cell phenotype on the basis of protein expression of the pluripotent transcription factor OCT-4 was examined for populations of EBs and single EBs of different sizes at distinct stages of differentiation. Results from the cell trap device were compared with flow cytometry and whole mount immunostaining. Additionally, single cells from dissociated pooled EBs or individual EBs were examined separately to discern potential differences in the value or variance of expression between the different methods of analysis. Overall, the analytical method described represents a novel approach for evaluating how heterogeneity is manifested in EB cultures and may be used in the future to assess the kinetics and patterns of differentiation in addition to the loss of pluripotency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Line
  • Embryoid Bodies / chemistry*
  • Embryoid Bodies / cytology
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Mice
  • Microfluidic Analytical Techniques / instrumentation
  • Microfluidics / methods*
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods*