A comparison of microfluidic methods for high-throughput cell deformability measurements

Nat Methods. 2020 Jun;17(6):587-593. doi: 10.1038/s41592-020-0818-8. Epub 2020 Apr 27.


The mechanical phenotype of a cell is an inherent biophysical marker of its state and function, with many applications in basic and applied biological research. Microfluidics-based methods have enabled single-cell mechanophenotyping at throughputs comparable to those of flow cytometry. Here, we present a standardized cross-laboratory study comparing three microfluidics-based approaches for measuring cell mechanical phenotype: constriction-based deformability cytometry (cDC), shear flow deformability cytometry (sDC) and extensional flow deformability cytometry (xDC). All three methods detect cell deformability changes induced by exposure to altered osmolarity. However, a dose-dependent deformability increase upon latrunculin B-induced actin disassembly was detected only with cDC and sDC, which suggests that when exposing cells to the higher strain rate imposed by xDC, cellular components other than the actin cytoskeleton dominate the response. The direct comparison presented here furthers our understanding of the applicability of the different deformability cytometry methods and provides context for the interpretation of deformability measurements performed using different platforms.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Actins / drug effects
  • Bridged Bicyclo Compounds, Heterocyclic / administration & dosage
  • Cell Shape / drug effects
  • Cell Size / drug effects
  • Cytoskeleton / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Flow Cytometry / methods*
  • HL-60 Cells
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Microfluidics / methods*
  • Thiazolidines / administration & dosage


  • Actins
  • Bridged Bicyclo Compounds, Heterocyclic
  • Thiazolidines
  • latrunculin B