Cell force measurements in 3D microfabricated environments based on compliant cantilevers
We report the fabrication, functionalization and testing of microdevices for cell culture and cell traction force measurements in three-dimensions (3D). The devices are composed of bent cantilevers patterned with cell-adhesive spots not lying on the same plane, and thus suspending cells in 3D. The cantilevers are soft enough to undergo micrometric deflections when cells pull on them, allowing cell forces to be measured by means of optical microscopy. Since individual cantilevers are mechanically independent of each other, cell traction forces are determined directly from cantilever deflections. This proves the potential of these new devices as a tool for the quantification of cell mechanics in a system with well-defined 3D geometry and mechanical properties.