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Biocompatible micro-sized cell culture chamber for the detection of nanoparticle-induced IL8 promoter activity on a small cell population

Yvonne Kohl1, Gertie J Oostingh2, Adam Sossalla3, Albert Duschl2, Hagen von Briesen1* and Hagen Thielecke4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Cell Biology and Applied Virology, Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering, 66386 St. Ingbert, Germany

2 Department of Molecular Biology, University of Salzburg, 5020 Salzburg, Austria

3 Department of Medical Engineering and Neuroprosthetics, Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering, 66386 St. Ingbert, Germany

4 Vanguard AG, 12623 Berlin, Germany

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Nanoscale Research Letters 2011, 6:505  doi:10.1186/1556-276X-6-505

Published: 23 August 2011


In most conventional in vitro toxicological assays, the response of a complete cell population is averaged, and therefore, single-cell responses are not detectable. Such averaging might result in misinterpretations when only individual cells within a population respond to a certain stimulus. Therefore, there is a need for non-invasive in vitro systems to verify the toxicity of nanoscale materials. In the present study, a micro-sized cell culture chamber with a silicon nitride membrane (0.16 mm2) was produced for cell cultivation and the detection of specific cell responses. The biocompatibility of the microcavity chip (MCC) was verified by studying adipogenic and neuronal differentiation. Thereafter, the suitability of the MCC to study the effects of nanoparticles on a small cell population was determined by using a green fluorescence protein-based reporter cell line. Interleukin-8 promoter (pIL8) induction, a marker of an inflammatory response, was used to monitor immune activation. The validation of the MCC-based method was performed using well-characterized gold and silver nanoparticles. The sensitivity of the new method was verified comparing the quantified pIL8 activation via MCC-based and standard techniques. The results proved the biocompatibility and the sensitivity of the microculture chamber, as well as a high optical quality due to the properties of Si3N4. The MCC-based method is suited for threshold- and time-dependent analysis of nanoparticle-induced IL8 promoter activity. This novel system can give dynamic information at the level of adherent single cells of a small cell population and presents a new non-invasive in vitro test method to assess the toxicity of nanomaterials and other compounds.

PACS: 85.35.Be, 81.16.Nd, 87.18.Mp

micro-sized cell culture chamber; inflammation; nanoparticles