Highly controlled electrofusion of individually selected cells in dielectrophoretic field cages
The prospect of novel therapeutic approaches has renewed the current interest in the fusion of rare cells, like stem cells or primary immune cells. While conventional techniques are only capable of mass fusion, lab-on-a-chip systems often still lack an acceptable method for making the cells available after processing. Here, we present a microfluidic approach for electrofusion on the single-cell level that offers high control over the cells both before and after fusion. For cell pairing and fusion, we employed dielectrophoresis and AC voltage pulses, respectively. Each cell has been characterized and selected before they were paired, fused and released from the fluidic system for subsequent analysis and cultivation. The successful experimental evaluation of our system was further corroborated by numerical simulations. We obtained fusion efficiencies of more than 30% for individual pairs of mouse myeloma and B cell blasts and showed the proliferating ability of the hybrid cells 3 d after fusion. Since aggregates of more than two cells can be fused, the technique could also be developed further for generating giant cells for low-noise electrophysiology in the context of semi-automated pharmaceutical screening procedures.