On-chip surface acoustic wave and micropipette aspiration techniques to assess cell elastic properties

Biomicrofluidics. 2020 Feb 18;14(1):014114. doi: 10.1063/1.5138662. eCollection 2020 Jan.


The cytoskeletal mechanics and cell mechanical properties play an important role in cellular behaviors. In this study, in order to provide comprehensive insights into the relationship between different cytoskeletal components and cellular elastic moduli, we built a phase-modulated surface acoustic wave microfluidic device to measure cellular compressibility and a microfluidic micropipette-aspiration device to measure cellular Young's modulus. The microfluidic devices were validated based on experimental data and computational simulations. The contributions of structural cytoskeletal actin filament and microtubule to cellular compressibility and Young's modulus were examined in MCF-7 cells. The compressibility of MCF-7 cells was increased after microtubule disruption, whereas actin disruption had no effect. In contrast, Young's modulus of MCF-7 cells was reduced after actin disruption but unaffected by microtubule disruption. The actin filaments and microtubules were stained to confirm the structural alteration in cytoskeleton. Our findings suggest the dissimilarity in the structural roles of actin filaments and microtubules in terms of cellular compressibility and Young's modulus. Based on the differences in location and structure, actin filaments mainly contribute to tensile Young's modulus and microtubules mainly contribute to compressibility. In addition, different responses to cytoskeletal alterations between acoustophoresis and micropipette aspiration demonstrated that micropipette aspiration was better at detecting the change from actin cortex, while the response to acoustophoresis was governed by microtubule networks.