Main content area

Real-time cellular impedance monitoring and imaging of biological barriers in a dual-flow membrane bioreactor

Cacopardo, L., Costa, J., Giusti, S., Buoncompagni, L., Meucci, S., Corti, A., Mattei, G., Ahluwalia, A.
Biosensors & bioelectronics 2019 v.140 pp. 111340
actin, biosensors, cell culture, drugs, electric impedance, epithelial cells, human diseases, image analysis, membrane bioreactors, models, monitoring, nutrient uptake, occludins, toxicity
The generation of physiologically relevant in-vitro models of biological barriers can play a key role in understanding human diseases and in the development of more predictive methods for assessing toxicity and drug or nutrient absorption. Here, we present an advanced cell culture system able to mimic the dynamic environment of biological barriers while monitoring cell behaviour through real-time impedance measurements and imaging. It consists of a fluidic device with an apical and a basal flow compartment separated by a semi-permeable membrane. The main features of the device are the integration of sensing through transepithelial electrical impedance (TEEI) measurements and transparent windows for optical monitoring within a dual flow system.Caco-2 cells were cultured in the TEEI bioreactor under both flow and static conditions. Although no differences in the expression of peripheral actin and occludin were visible, the cells in dynamic conditions developed higher impedance values at low frequencies, indicative of a higher paracellular electrical impedance with respect to the static cultures. TEEI measurements at high frequency also enabled monitoring monolayer formation, which can be correlated with the observation of an RC behaviour in the impedance spectra. In particular, the cells subject to flow showed accelerated barrier formation and increased vitality with respect to the static controls, again highlighting the importance of dynamic conditions for epithelial cells.