9th Annual Symposium
Physics of Cancer
Leipzig, Germany
September 24-26, 2018
Invited Talk
Virtual fluidic channels: from single cell rheology to tissue mechanics
Oliver Otto
ZIK HIKE, University of Greifswald, Centre for Innovation Competence - Humoral Immune Reactions in Cardiovascular Diseases Biomechanics, Fleischmannstraße 42-44 17489 Greifswald, Germany
Contact:  | Website
The mechanical properties of cells have long been established as a sensitive label-free
biomarker for their function and state. While mechanical cell assays have traditionally been
limited to low throughput or small sample size, the introduction of real-time deformability
cytometry (RT-DC) increased analysis rates to up to 1,000 cells per second on-the-fly. RT-DC
has demonstrated its relevance in basic and fundamental life science research, e.g. by
establishing the mechanical fingerprint of whole blood, by describing the biophysics of Malaria
pathogenesis and by observing the activation of immune cells. Yet, linking immune cell
activation to underlying tissue alterations, e.g. after viral infiltration, has not been possible so
far since RT-DC is a microfluidic technology and limited to suspended cells only.
Here, we are introducing the concept of virtual fluidic channels to bridge the gap between
microscopic and mesoscopic hydrodynamic environments. Virtual channels can be created in
almost any geometry using soft lithography as well as cuvettes and can be tailored dynamically
to a hydrodynamic stress distribution sufficient to probe the rheology of arbitrary cell sizes.
Using HEK293 cells as a 3D culture model, we demonstrate that the Young’s modulus of single
cells exceeds the one of spheroids and that the elasticity of spheroids increases with size. The
availability of a high-throughput assay for mechanical spheroid characterization might lead to
a better understanding of tissue rheology and help to reveal e.g. the interplay of virus
infiltration and tissue degeneration as well as the role of reactive species for cytoskeletal
remodelling in wound healing.
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