New technology developed for single cell analysis

The single-cell electrorotational microfluidic device uses an electric field to probe the cell’s properties. Credit: Texas A&M Engineering

The ability to analyze the properties of individual cells is vital to a wide range of life science applications, from diagnosing diseases and developing better therapeutics to characterizing pathogenic bacteria and developing cells for biomanufacturing applications. However, accurate analysis of individual cells is challenging, especially when it comes to cell biophysical properties, due to the large variation in properties between cells even within the same cell population, as well as the presence of rare cell types in a larger population.

To address this need, Dr. Aram Khan, Texas Instruments Professor II in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M University, along with his students and postdoctoral fellows, developed a new technology that can accurately analyze cell properties by using a single-cell electrorotational microfluidic device that uses an electric field to probe cell properties.

The technology works by using an electric field to first trap a single cell in a microfluidic device, followed by applying a rotating electric field to rotate the trapped single cell and then measuring the rate of rotation. By knowing the parameters of the input electric field and analyzing the rotation speed, it becomes possible to accurately analyze the dielectric properties of a cell.

“By knowing how much force is applied and how fast the cell is rotating, you can derive many basic biophysical properties of cells,” Hahn said.

There have been previous attempts to achieve this, but this technology is the most accurate at measuring these properties due to its ability to apply a high-frequency electric field (up to 100 megahertz) and the use of an eight-pair electrode design to simultaneously capture a single cell and apply rotational force to the trapped cell.

The research team’s findings are presented in Biomedical microdevices.

This technology has been fully developed and applied to several different cell analysis applications. Having successfully demonstrated that the analysis can be completed exactly one cell at a time, Yuen Li, a graduate student in Han’s lab and lead author of the paper, is now leading efforts to further develop the technology so that it can be executed at a much higher speed and against many cells simultaneously.

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More info:
Yuwen Li et al, Measurement of Dielectric Properties of Cells at Single Cell Resolution Using Electrospinning, Biomedical microdevices (2022). DOI: 10.1007/s10544-022-00621-3

Courtesy of Texas A&M University College of Engineering

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