Laboratory for Multiscale Regenerative Technologies, MIT - Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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Hui, E. E., Bhatia, S. N. Silicon Microchips for Manipulating Cell-cell Interaction. J. Vis. Exp. (7), e268, doi:10.3791/268 (2007).
The role of the cellular microenvironment is recognized as crucial in determining cell fate and function in virtually all mammalian tissues from development to malignant transformation. In particular, interaction with neighboring stroma has been implicated in a plethora of biological phenomena; however, conventional techniques limit the ability to interrogate the spatial and dynamic elements of such interactions.
In Micromechanical Reconfigurable Culture (RC), we employ a micromachined silicon substrate with moving parts to dynamically control cell-cell interactions through mechanical repositioning. Previously, this method has been applied to investigate intercellular communication in co-cultures of hepatocytes and non-parenchymal cells, demonstrating time-dependent interactions and a limited range for soluble signaling 1.
Here, we describe in detail the preparation and use of the RC system. We begin by demonstrating the handling of the device parts using tweezers, including actuating between the gap and contact configurations (cell populations separated by a narrow 80-µm gap, or in direct intimate contact). Next, we detail the process of preparing the substrates for culture, and the multi-step cell seeding process required for obtaining confluent cell monolayers. Using live microscopy, we then illustrate real-time manipulation of cells between the different possible experimental configurations. Finally, we demonstrate the steps required in order to regenerate the device surface for reuse: toluene and piranha cleaning, polystyrene coating, and oxygen plasma treatment.
Preparation of cell cultures:
Processing silicon parts for reuse:
This system is unique in that it enables the spatial organization of tissue to be dynamically manipulated at the cellular level. Consequently, this device has enabled a number of novel biological experiments, spanning topics such as intercellular signaling dynamics, contact-mediated versus soluble signaling, cell fate decisions, toxicology, and cellular crosstalk. This device should be widely generalizable since the culture substrate is standard tissue culture plastic, and the system is compatible with standard culture methods and assays. Hence, we believe that this platform will be of broad interest as a tool for studying cell-cell interaction among many different cells and tissues.
The authors have nothing to disclose.
The authors thank Salman Khetani, Jared Allen, Chris Flaim, and Austin Derfus for helpful discussions during the process of designing this device. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program, National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. E.E.H. was supported by a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award.
|Silicon Comb Substrates||Tool||N/A||N/A||Parts are available for collaborative research projects. Please contact Elliot Hui (eehui @ alum . mit . edu) or Sangeeta Bhatia (sbhatia @ mit . edu).|
1. Hui EE and Bhatia SN (2007). Micromechanical control of cell-cell interactions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104, 5722-5726.
2. Bhatia SN, Balis UJ, Yarmush ML and Toner M (1999). Effect of cell–cell interactions in preservation of cellular phenotype: cocultivation of hepatocytes and nonparenchymal cells. The FASEB Journal, 13, 1883-1900.
3. El-Ali J, Sorger PK, Jensen KF (2006). Cells on Chips. Nature, 442, 403 - 411.