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Systematic Analysis of Different Cell Spheroids with a Microfluidic Device Using Scanning Electrochemical Microscopy and Gene Expression Profiling

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journal contribution
posted on 14.03.2019, 00:00 by Liang Zhao, Mi Shi, Yang Liu, Xiaonan Zheng, Jidong Xiu, Yingying Liu, Lu Tian, Hongjuan Wang, Meiqin Zhang, Xueji Zhang
The 3D cell spheroid is an emerging tool that allows better recapitulating of in vivo scenarios with multiple factors such as tissue-like morphology and membrane protein expression that intimately coordinates with enzyme activity, thus providing a psychological environment for tumorigenesis study. For analyzing different spheroids, conventional optical imaging may be hampered by the need for fluorescent labeling, which could cause toxicity side effects. As an alternative approach, scanning electrochemical microscopy (SECM) enables label-free imaging. However, SECM for cell spheroid imaging is currently suffering from incapability of systematically analyzing the cell aggregates from spheroid generation, electrochemical signal gaining, and the gene expression on different individual cell spheroids. Herein, we developed a top-removable microfluidic device for cell aggregate yielding and SECM imaging methodology to analyze heterotypic 3D cell spheroids on a single device. This technique allows not only on-chip culturing of cell aggregates but also SECM imaging of the spheroids after opening the chip and subsequent qPCR assay of corresponding clusters. Through employment of the micropit arrays (85 × 4) with a top withdrawable microfluidic layer, uniformly sized breast tumor cell and fibroblast spheroids can be simultaneously produced on a single device. By leveraging voltage-switching mode SECM at different potentials of dual mediators, we evaluated alkaline phosphatase without disturbance of substrate morphology for distinguishing the tumor aggregates from stroma. Moreover, this method also enables gene expression profiling on individual tumor or stromal spheroids. Therefore, this new strategy can seamlessly bridge SECM measurements and molecular biological analysis.