We developed different types of glass cell-culture chips (GC³s) for culturing cells for microscopic observation in open media-containing troughs or in microfluidic structures. Platinum sensor and manipulation structures were used to monitor physiological parameters and to allocate and permeabilize cells. Electro-thermal micro pumps distributed chemical compounds in the microfluidic systems. The integrated temperature sensors showed a linear, Pt1000-like behavior. Cell adhesion and proliferation were monitored using interdigitated electrode structures (IDESs). The cell-doubling times of primary murine embryonic neuronal cells (PNCs) were determined based on the IDES capacitance-peak shifts. The electrical activity of PNC networks was detected using multi-electrode arrays (MEAs). During seeding, the cells were dielectrophoretically allocated to individual MEAs to improve network structures. MEA pads with diameters of 15, 20, 25, and 35 µm were tested. After 3 weeks, the magnitudes of the determined action potentials were highest for pads of 25 µm in diameter and did not differ when the inter-pad distances were 100 or 170 µm. Using 25-µm diameter circular oxygen electrodes, the signal currents in the cell-culture media were found to range from approximately -0.08 nA (0% O₂) to -2.35 nA (21% O₂). It was observed that 60-nm thick silicon nitride-sensor layers were stable potentiometric pH sensors under cell-culture conditions for periods of days. Their sensitivity between pH 5 and 9 was as high as 45 mV per pH step. We concluded that sensorized GC³s are potential animal replacement systems for purposes such as toxicity pre-screening. For example, the effect of mefloquine, a medication used to treat malaria, on the electrical activity of neuronal cells was determined in this study using a GC³ system.
Keywords: AC-electrokinetics; Clark-type oxygen electrode; dielectrophoresis; drug screening; electroporation; interdigitated electrode structure; microfluidics; multi-electrode array; potentiometric pH sensor; sensorized cell-culture chip.