Inertial Microfluidic Cell Stretcher (iMCS): Fully Automated, High-Throughput, and Near Real-Time Cell Mechanotyping

Yanxiang Deng, Steven P. Davis, Fan Yang, Kevin S. Paulsen, Maneesh Kumar, Rebecca Sinnott DeVaux, Xianhui Wang, Douglas S. Conklin, Assad Oberai, Jason I. Herschkowitz, Aram J. Chung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


Mechanical biomarkers associated with cytoskeletal structures have been reported as powerful label-free cell state identifiers. In order to measure cell mechanical properties, traditional biophysical (e.g., atomic force microscopy, micropipette aspiration, optical stretchers) and microfluidic approaches were mainly employed; however, they critically suffer from low-throughput, low-sensitivity, and/or time-consuming and labor-intensive processes, not allowing techniques to be practically used for cell biology research applications. Here, a novel inertial microfluidic cell stretcher (iMCS) capable of characterizing large populations of single-cell deformability near real-time is presented. The platform inertially controls cell positions in microchannels and deforms cells upon collision at a T-junction with large strain. The cell elongation motions are recorded, and thousands of cell deformability information is visualized near real-time similar to traditional flow cytometry. With a full automation, the entire cell mechanotyping process runs without any human intervention, realizing a user friendly and robust operation. Through iMCS, distinct cell stiffness changes in breast cancer progression and epithelial mesenchymal transition are reported, and the use of the platform for rapid cancer drug discovery is shown as well. The platform returns large populations of single-cell quantitative mechanical properties (e.g., shear modulus) on-the-fly with high statistical significances, enabling actual usages in clinical and biophysical studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1700705
Issue number28
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jul 26
Externally publishedYes


  • deformability cytometry
  • high-throughput cell screening
  • inertial cell stretcher
  • mechanophenotype
  • microfluidics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)


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