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Electrical Impedance Measurements of Biological Cells in Response to External Stimuli

Dielectric spectroscopy (DS) is a noninvasive technique for real-time measurements of the impedance spectra of biological cells. DS enables characterization of cellular dielectric properties such as membrane capacitance and cytoplasmic conductivity. We have developed a lab-on-a-chip device that uses an electro-activated microwells array for capturing, DS measurements, and unloading of biological cells. Impedance measurements were conducted at 0.2 V in the 10 kHz to 40 MHz range with 6 s time resolution. An equivalent circuit model was developed to extract the cell membrane capacitance and cell cytoplasmic conductivity from the impedance spectra. A human prostate cancer cell line, PC-3, was used to evaluate the device performance. Suspension of PC-3 cells in low conductivity buffers (LCB) enhanced their dielectrophoretic trapping and impedance response. We report the time course of the variations in dielectric properties of PC-3 cells suspended in LCB and their response to sudden pH change from a pH of 7.3 to a pH of 5.8. Importantly, we demonstrated that our device enabled real-time measurements of dielectric properties of live cancer cells and allowed the assessment of the cellular response to variations in buffer conductivity and pH. These data support further development of this device toward single cell measurements.

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