Why do physical properties of cells matter?

Physical properties of cells reflect physiological and pathological changes in cell function. They are promising biomarkers for disease diagnosis and prognosis. For example, we have recently demonstrated their utility for detecting blood mechanical changes in the context of COVID-19.

Combined with machine learning, this technology is a discovery machine for characterizing cell populations and functional states invisible to marker-based techniques.

An HL-60 cell deforming under shear stress in a microfluidic channel. Video by MPL, licensed CC0.

What is physical phenotyping of cells?

The characterization of single living cells by their physical and morphological features, including size, shape, deformability and other properties. Physical phenotyping adds a new functional, marker-free and unbiased dimension to flow cytometry with diverse applications in biology, biotechnology and medicine.

a diagram of the layout of Rivercyte's microfluidic chips

Scheme of the microfluidic chip used for deformability cytometry. Image by MPL, licensed CC0.

How does it work?

Cells flow through a narrow microfluidic channel, where they deform due to the forces applied. An image is taken of each cell. Physical phenotype parameters of the cell are extracted from the image.

Thanks to high-speed video microscopy, our analysis rates of 1,000 cells/s approach those of conventional fluorescence-based flow cytometers. Hundreds of thousands of cells can be measured within minutes.

Any cell suspension can be analyzed - blood and other liquid biopsies, cells from solid tissues, cultured cells. All of this without time- and material-consuming sample preparation such as staining.

Key publications from our team