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Cell Mol Bioeng. 2011 Jun;4(2):270-280.

Whole-Cell Electrical Activity Under Direct Mechanical Stimulus by AFM Cantilever Using Planar Patch Clamp Chip Approach.

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Department of Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh, Suite 306, 300 Technology Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15219, USA.


Patch clamp is a powerful tool for studying the properties of ion-channels and cellular membrane. In recent years, planar patch clamp chips have been fabricated from various materials including glass, quartz, silicon, silicon nitride, polydimethyl-siloxane (PDMS), and silicon dioxide. Planar patch clamps have made automation of patch clamp recordings possible. However, most planar patch clamp chips have limitations when used in combination with other techniques. Furthermore, the fabrication methods used are often expensive and require specialized equipments. An improved design as well as fabrication and characterization of a silicon-based planar patch clamp chip are described in this report. Fabrication involves true batch fabrication processes that can be performed in most common microfabrication facilities using well established MEMS techniques. Our planar patch clamp chips can form giga-ohm seals with the cell plasma membrane with success rate comparable to existing patch clamp techniques. The chip permits whole-cell voltage clamp recordings on variety of cell types including Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cells and pheochromocytoma (PC12) cells, for times longer than most available patch clamp chips. When combined with a custom microfluidics chamber, we demonstrate that it is possible to perfuse the extra-cellular as well as intra-cellular buffers. The chamber design allows integration of planar patch clamp with atomic force microscope (AFM). Using our planar patch clamp chip and microfluidics chamber, we have recorded whole-cell mechanosensitive (MS) currents produced by directly stimulating human keratinocyte (HaCaT) cells using an AFM cantilever. Our results reveal the spatial distribution of MS ion channels and temporal details of the responses from MS channels. The results show that planar patch clamp chips have great potential for multi-parametric high throughput studies of ion channel proteins.

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