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Biotechniques. 2001 Feb;30(2):388-94.

Lateral view flow system for studies of cell adhesion and deformation under flow conditions.

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Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.


Physical interactions between circulating cells and the vascular wall play a central role in inflammation, metastasis, atherosclerosis, and therapeutic cell delivery. Unfortunately, traditional in vitro flow assays cannot be used to visualize the details of cell-surface interactions in blood flow because of inappropriate geometry and the poor penetration of light in erythrocyte solutions. To overcome these obstacles, we have developed an agarose-cast cylindrical vessel system to examine the profiles of cells interacting with surfaces under flow conditions. This design allows observation and quantification of cell deformation as cells adhere to surfaces under dynamic flow conditions without modifying the microscope or optical path. Furthermore, our flow system is uniquely suited for monitoring the profiles of adherent leukocytes deforming in response to erythrocyte suspension flow. We have used this flow system to study the role of erythrocytes in leukocyte-substrate interactions. Our results show that the cell deformation index (the ratio of the cell length to cell height) is higher in erythrocyte solutions compared to erythrocyte-free saline. This novel lateral view flow system provides a powerful technique for visualizing and quantifying the morphological changes of cells in contact with substrates exposed to shear stress.

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