A polymeric cell stretching device for real-time imaging with optical microscopy
Date of Issue2013
School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
This paper reports the design, fabrication and characterization of a cell stretching device based on the side stretching approach. Numerical simulation using finite element method provides a guideline for optimizing the geometry and maximizing the output strain of the stretched membrane. An unique PDMS-based micro fabrication process was developed for obtaining high parallelization, well controlled membrane thickness and an ultra-thin bottom layer that is crucial for the use with confocal microscopes. The stretching experiments are fully automated with both device actuation and image acquisition. A programmable pneumatic control system was built for simultaneous driving of 24 stretching arrays. The actuation signals are synchronized with the image acquisition system to obtain time-lapse recording of cells grown on the stretched membrane. Experimental results verified the characteristics predicted by the simulation. A platform with 15 stretching units was integrated on a standard 24 mm × 50 mm glass slide. Each unit can achieve a maximum strain of more than 60 %. The platform was tested for cell growth under cyclic stretching. The preliminary results show that the device is compatible with all standard microscopes.