Cells in the body collectively sustain mechanical deformations in almost all physiological functions. From the morphogenesis stage, cells'' ability to sustain stress is essential for the body''s well-being. Several pathologies have been associated with abnormal mechanical properties, thus suggesting the Young''s modulus as a biomarker to diagnose diseases and determine their progression. Advancements in the field are quite slow because current techniques for measuring cell and tissue mechanics rely on complex and bulky measurement platforms that have low repeatability rates and limited measurement time-scales. We present the first miniaturized system that allows accurate quantification of the Young''s modulus of adherent cell monolayers over a longer time (1-2 days). Our approach is based on tensile testing and optical read-out. Thanks to a thoughtful design and material choice, we are able to miniaturize tensile testing platforms into a 1 cmx 2 cm device. We provide highly repeatable Young''s modulus measurements in the relevant range between 3 kPa and 300 kPa, over time and under physiological conditions, thus representing an interesting alternative to existing measurement platforms. Furthermore, the compatibility with standard biological equipment, continuous optical imaging and measurements on all types of adherent cells make this device highly versatile. Measurements on human sarcoma osteogenic (SaOS2) and Madin-Darby canine kidney cells (MDCK) are reported. The demonstrated capability to measure real-time changes in mechanical properties, such as after chemical treatment, opens the door for investigating the effects of drugs on cell mechanics.
Lab on a Chip, vol. 19 (12), pp. 2138-2146, Jun 2019.