Simulation and Experimental Characterization of Microscopically Accessible Hydrodynamic Microvortices
Single-cell studies of phenotypic heterogeneity reveal more information about pathogenic processes than conventional bulk-cell analysis methods. By enabling high-resolution structural and functional imaging, a single-cell three-dimensional (3D) imaging system can be used to study basic biological processes and to diagnose diseases such as cancer at an early stage. One mechanism that such systems apply to accomplish 3D imaging is rotation of a single cell about a fixed axis. However, many cell rotation mechanisms require intricate and tedious microfabrication, or fail to provide a suitable environment for living cells. To address these and related challenges, we applied numerical simulation methods to design new microfluidic chambers capable of generating fluidic microvortices to rotate suspended cells. We then compared several microfluidic chip designs experimentally in terms of: (1) their ability to rotate biological cells in a stable and precise manner; and (2) their suitability, from a geometric standpoint, for microscopic cell imaging. We selected a design that incorporates a trapezoidal side chamber connected to a main flow channel because it provided well-controlled circulation and met imaging requirements. Micro particle-image velocimetry (micro-PIV) was used to provide a detailed characterization of flows in the new design. Simulated and experimental results demonstrate that a trapezoidal side chamber represents a viable option for accomplishing controlled single cell rotation. Further, agreement between experimental and simulated results confirms that numerical simulation is an effective method for chamber design.