On-chip culture system for observation of isolated individual cells

Ippei Inoue, Yuichi Wakamoto, Hiroyuki Moriguchi, Kazunori Okano, Kenji Yasuda*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

181 Citations (Scopus)


To investigate the properties of isolated single cells with their environment, we developed the differential analysis method for single cells using an on-chip microculture system. The advantages of the system are, (i) continuous cultivation of a series of isolated single cells or a group of cells under contamination free conditions, (ii) continuous observation and comparison of those cells with 0.2 μm spatial resolution by a phase-contrast/ fluorescent microscopy system with digital image processing. The core of the system is an n × n (n = 20-50) array of chambers, where each is 20-70 μm in diameter and 5-30 μm deep holes etched into a biotin-coated 0.17 mm thick glass slide. The biotin-coated glass slide is covered with the streptavidin coated cellulose semipermeable membrane, which is fixed on the surface of the glass slide by streptavidin-biotin attachment, separating those holes from the nutrient medium circulating through a 'cover chamber' above. A single cell or group of cells can thus be isolated from environment perfused with the same medium, and the medium in each chamber can be changed within the diffusion time (<1/30 s). In addition, the microchamber volumes of specific cells or cell groups can be controlled by the sizes of the chambers. By using this system we found that the length of isolated Escherichia coli increased at 0.06 μm min-1 between cell divisions regardless of the chamber volume, and that the cell concentration reached 1012 cells ml -1 under contamination free conditions. The system is thus particularly useful for one cell level analysis because the direct descendants of single cells can be cultured and compared in the isolated microchambers, and the physical properties of the cells in each microchamber can be continuously observed and compared.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-55
Number of pages6
JournalLab on a Chip
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001 Sept 1
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biochemistry
  • General Chemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering


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