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Kamenac, Andrej; Schilberth, Felix L.; Wagner, Ernst; Wixforth, Achim; Lächelt, Ulrich and Westerhausen, Christoph (2021): Transient Permeabilization of Living Cells: Combining Shear Flow and Acoustofluidic Trapping for the Facilitated Uptake of Molecules. In: Processes, Vol. 9, No. 6, 913

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Here, we present a novel approach for the transient permeabilization of cells. We combined laminar shear flow in a microchannel with chaotic advection employing surface acoustic waves. First, as a fundamental result on the one hand, and as a kind of reference measurement for the more complex acoustofluidic approach on the other hand, we studied the permeabilization of cells in pure shear flow in a microchannel with Y-geometry. As a proof of principle, we used fluorescent dyes as model drugs and investigated their internalization into HeLa cells. We found that drug uptake scaled non-linearly with flow rate and thus shear stress. For calcein, we obtained a maximal enhancement factor of about 12 at an optimum flow rate of Q = 500 mu L/h in the geometry used here compared to static incubation. This result is discussed in the light of structural phase transitions of lipid membranes accompanied by non-linear effects, as the plasma membrane is the main barrier to overcome. Second, we demonstrated the enhanced permeabilization of acoustically trapped cells in surface acoustic wave induced vortices in a microchannel, with an enhancement factor of about 18 compared to quasi-static incubation. Moreover, we optimized the trapping conditions regarding flow rate, the power level of the surface acoustic wave, and trapping time. Finally, we showed that our method is not limited to small molecules but can also be applied to compounds with higher molecular weight.

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