Cells are very sensitive to various microenvironmental cues, including mechanical stress and chemical gradients. Therefore, physiologically relevant models of cells should consider how cells sense and respond to microenvironmental cues. This can be accomplished by using microfluidic systems, in which fluid physics can be realized at a nanoliter scale. Here we describe a simple and versatile method to study the generation of chemical concentration and mechanical shear stress gradients in a single microfluidic chip. Our system uses an osmotic pump that produces very slow (<a few m/s) and controlled flow, allowing a wide and stable diffusion of specific chemical concentration. We also established a shear stress gradient passively via a circular channel in the interstitial level. For evaluation of the system, we used L929 mouse fibroblast cells and simultaneously exposed them to a mechanical stress gradient and a chemical nutrient gradient. The interstitial shear stress level clearly affected cell alignment, mobility velocity, and attachment. At the same time, cell proliferation reflected nutrient concentration level. Our system, which enables continuous and long-term culture of cells in a combined chemical and mechanical gradient, provides physiologically realistic conditions and will be applicable to studies of cancer metastasis and stem cell differentiation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biomedical Engineering