Probing Cell Deformability via Acoustically Actuated Bubbles

Yuliang Xie, Nitesh Nama, Peng Li, Zhangming Mao, Po Hsun Huang, Chenglong Zhao, Francesco Costanzo, Tony Jun Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


An acoustically actuated, bubble-based technique is developed to investigate the deformability of cells suspended in microfluidic devices. A microsized bubble is generated by an optothermal effect near the targeted cells, which are suspended in a microfluidic chamber. Subsequently, acoustic actuation is employed to create localized acoustic streaming. In turn, the streaming flow results in hydrodynamic forces that deform the cells in situ. The deformability of the cells is indicative of their mechanical properties. The method in this study measures mechanical biomarkers from multiple cells in a single experiment, and it can be conveniently integrated with other bioanalysis and drug-screening platforms. Using this technique, the mean deformability of tens of HeLa, HEK, and HUVEC cells is measured to distinguish their mechanical properties. HeLa cells are deformed upon treatment with Cytochalasin. The technique also reveals the deformability of each subpopulation in a mixed, heterogeneous cell sample by the use of both fluorescent markers and mechanical biomarkers. The technique in this study, apart from being relevant to cell biology, will also enable biophysical cellular diagnosis. The deformability of cells is characterized with an acoustically actuated bubble in a microfluidic device, providing insights into cell status, drug performance, and disease diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)902-910
Number of pages9
Issue number7
StatePublished - Feb 17 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Biotechnology
  • General Materials Science
  • Biomaterials


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