Modification of the swirling well cell culture model to alter shear stress metrics

Biotechnol Bioeng. 2023 May;120(5):1254-1268. doi: 10.1002/bit.28331. Epub 2023 Jan 20.


Effects of hemodynamic shear stress on endothelial cells have been extensively investigated using the "swirling well" method, in which cells are cultured in dishes or multiwell plates placed on an orbital shaker. A wave rotates around the well, producing complex patterns of shear. The method allows chronic exposure to flow with high throughput at low cost but has two disadvantages: a number of shear stress characteristics change in a broadly similar way from the center to the edge of the well, and cells at one location in the well may release mediators into the medium that affect the behavior of cells at other locations, exposed to different shears. These properties make it challenging to correlate cell properties with shear. The present study investigated simple alterations to ameliorate these issues. Flows were obtained by numerical simulation. Increasing the volume of fluid in the well-altered dimensional but not dimensionless shear metrics. Adding a central cylinder to the base of the well-forced fluid to flow in a square toroidal channel and reduced multidirectionality. Conversely, suspending a cylinder above the base of the well made the flow highly multidirectional. Increasing viscosity in the latter model increased the magnitude of dimensional but not dimensionless metrics. Finally, tilting the well changed the patterns of different wall shear stress metrics in different ways. Collectively, these methods allow similar flows over most of the cells cultured and/or allow the separation of different shear metrics. A combination of the methods overcomes the limitations of the baseline model.

Keywords: atherosclerosis; cross flow index; endothelium; hemodynamics; oscillatory shear index; transverse wall shear stress; wall shear stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Culture Techniques*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Endothelial Cells*
  • Hemodynamics
  • Stress, Mechanical