DEA-based deformable cell culture system
We present a deformable cell culture system based on dielectric elastomer actuator (DEA). Understanding how the mechanical environment can affect cells functions could lead to significant advances in diseases diagnosis and drug development. Most available technologies offer low screening throughput, an important limitation considering the statistical nature of cellular studies. We previously reported an array of micro-DEAs for cell stretching application. Our DEA-based solution has the potential to replace current technologies and overcome the high screening throughput limitation. We present a new generation of devices, developed to better address cell biologists requirements. Two different devices were developed to apply periodic (1-5Hz) compressive or tensile strain greater than 10% on a 2mm x 2mm biological sample. Their original designs exploit non-equibiaxial pre-stretch of a silicone membrane and stress induced in passive regions of DEAs. Our technology is now compatible with high resolution optical microscopy for real time monitoring of morphology and chemical activity of the biological sample. This new generation of devices also significantly improves the electric field confinement and provides a fully biocompatible environment.