US20100143944A1 - Systems and methods for rapidly changing the solution environment around sensors - Google Patents

Systems and methods for rapidly changing the solution environment around sensors Download PDF

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US20100143944A1
US20100143944A1 US12/380,291 US38029109A US2010143944A1 US 20100143944 A1 US20100143944 A1 US 20100143944A1 US 38029109 A US38029109 A US 38029109A US 2010143944 A1 US2010143944 A1 US 2010143944A1
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cell
channel
channels
sensor
method
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Owe Orwar
Daniel Chiu
Johan Pihl
Jon Sinclair
Jessica Olofsson
Mattias Karlsson
Kent Jardemark
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Cellectricon AB
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Cellectricon AB
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Abstract

The invention provides microfluidic systems for altering the solution environment around a nanoscopic or microscopic object, such as a sensor, and methods for using the same. The invention can be applied in any sensor technology in which the sensing element needs to be exposed rapidly, sequentially, and controllably, to a large number of different solution environments whose characteristics may be known or unknown.

Description

    FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • The invention relates to systems and methods for rapid and programmable delivery of aqueous streams to a sensor, such as a cell-based biosensor. In particular, the invention provides methods and systems for high throughput patch clamp analysis.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • Ion-channels are important therapeutic targets. Neuronal communication, heart function, and memory all critically rely upon the function of ligand-gated and voltage-gated ion-channels. In addition, a broad range of chronic and acute pathophysiological states in many organs such as the heart, gastrointestinal tract, and brain involve ion channels. Indeed, many existing drugs bind receptors directly or indirectly connected to ion-channels. For example, anti-psychotic drugs interact with receptors involved in dopaminergic, serotonergic, cholinergic and glutamatergic neurotransmission.
  • Because of the importance of ion-channels as drug targets, there is a need for methods which enable high throughput screening (HTS) of compounds acting on ligand-gated and voltage-gated channels (see e.g., Sinclair et al., 2002, Anal. Chem. 74: 6133-6138). However, existing HTS drug discovery systems targeting ion channels generally miss significant drug activity because they employ indirect methods, such as raw binding assays or fluorescence-based readouts. Although as many as ten thousand drug leads can be identified from a screen of a million compounds, identification of false positives and false negatives can still result in a potential highly therapeutic blockbuster drug being ignored, and in unnecessary and costly investments in false drug leads.
  • Patch clamp methods are superior to any other technology for measuring ion channel activity in cells, and can measure currents across cell membranes in ranges as low as picoAmps (see, e.g., Neher and Sakmann, 1976, Nature 260: 799-802; Hamill, et al., 1981, Pflugers Arch 391: 85-100; Sakmann and Neher, 1983, In Single-Channel Recording pp. 37-52, Eds. B. Sakmann and E. Neher. New York and London, Plenum Press, 1983). However, patch clamp methods generally have not been the methods of choice for developing HTS platforms.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • The invention provides microfluidic systems for altering the solution environment around a nanoscopic or microscopic object, such as a sensor, and methods for using the same. The invention can be applied in any sensor technology in which the sensing element needs to be exposed rapidly, sequentially, and controllably, to a large number of different solution environments (e.g., greater than 10 and preferably, greater than about 96 different environments) whose characteristics may be known or unknown. In contrast to prior art microfluidic systems, the interval between sample deliveries is minimized, e.g., on the order of microseconds and seconds, permitting rapid analysis of compounds (e.g., drugs).
  • In one aspect, the invention provides a system comprising a substrate for changing the solution environment around a nanoscopic or microscopic object, such as a sensor. The substrate comprises an open-volume chamber for the sensor, and a plurality of channels. Each channel comprises an outlet for delivering a substantially separate aqueous stream into the chamber. In one aspect, the outlets are substantially parallel, i.e., arrayed linearly in a single plane. The dimensions of the outlets can vary; however, in one aspect, where the sensor is a biological cell, the diameter of each of the outlets is, preferably, at least about the diameter of the cell. Preferably, a plurality, if not all, of the channels programmably deliver a fluid stream into the chamber.
  • In a preferred aspect, each channel of the substrate comprises at least one inlet for receiving solution from a reservoir, conforming in geometry and placement on the substrate to the geometry and placement of wells in a multi-well plate. For example, the substrate can comprise 96-1024 reservoirs, each connected to an independent channel on the substrate. Preferably, the center-to-center distance of each reservoir corresponds to the center-to-center distance of wells in an industry standard microtiter or multi-well plate.
  • In a further aspect, the substrate comprises one or more treatment chambers or microchambers for delivering a treatment to a cell placed within the treatment chamber. The treatment can comprise exposing the cell to a chemical or compound, (e.g. drugs or dyes, such as calcium ion chelating fluorogenic dyes), exposing the cell to an electrical current (e.g., electroporation, electrofusion, and the like), or exposing the cell to light (e.g., exposure to a particular wavelength of light). A treatment chamber can be used for multiple types of treatments which may be delivered sequentially or simultaneously. For example, an electrically treated cell also can be exposed to a chemical or compound and/or exposed to light. Treatment can be continuous over a period of time or intermittent (e.g., spaced over regular or irregular intervals). The cell treatment chamber can comprise a channel with an outlet for delivering a treated cell to the sensor chamber or directly to a mechanism for holding the cell connected to a positioner (e.g., a micropositioner or nanopositioner) for positioning the cell within the chamber.
  • Preferably, the base of the sensor chamber is optically transmissive and in one aspect, the system further comprises a light source (e.g., such as a laser) in optical communication with the open volume chamber. The light source can be used to continuously or intermittently expose the sensor to light of the same or different wavelengths. The sensor chamber and/or channels additionally can be equipped with control devices. For example, the sensor chamber and/or channels can comprise temperature sensors, pH sensors, and the like, for providing signals relating to chamber and/or channel conditions to a system processor.
  • The sensor chamber can be adapted for receiving a variety of different sensors. In one aspect, the sensor comprises a cell or a portion of a cell (e.g., a cell membrane fraction). In another aspect, the cell or cell membrane fraction comprises an ion channel, including, but not limited to, a presynaptically-expressed ion channel, a ligand-gated channel, a voltage-gated channel, and the like. In a further aspect, the cell comprises a receptor, such as a G-Protein-Coupled Receptor (GPCR), or an orphan receptor for which no ligand is known, or a receptor comprising a known ligand.
  • A cultured cell can be used as a sensor and can be selected from the group consisting of CHO cells, NIH-3T3 cells, and HEK-293 cells, and can be recombinantly engineered to express a sensing molecule such as an ion channel or receptor. Many other different cell types also can be used, which can be selected from the group consisting of mammalian cells (e.g., including, but not limited to human cells, primate cells, bovine cells, swine cells, other domestic animals, and the like); bacterial cells; protist cells; yeast cells; plant cells; invertebrate cells, including insect cells; amphibian cells; avian cells; fish; and the like.
  • A cell membrane fraction can be isolated from any of the cells described above, or can be generated by aggregating a liposome or other lipid-based particle with a sensing molecule, such as an ion channel or receptor, using methods routine in the art.
  • The cell or portion of the cell can be positioned in the chamber using a mechanism for holding the cell or cell portion, such as a pipette (e.g., a patch clamp pipette) or a capillary connected to a positioner (e.g., such as a micropositioner or nanopositioner or micromanipulator), or an optical tweezer. Preferably, the positioner moves the pipette at least in an x-, y-, z-, direction. Alternatively or additionally, the positioner may rotate the pipette. Also, preferably, the positioner is coupled to a drive unit which communicates with a processor, allowing movement of the pipette to be controlled by the processor.
  • In one aspect, the base of the chamber comprises one or more depressions and the cell or portion of the cell is placed in a depression which can be in communication with one or more electrodes (e.g., the sensor can comprise a planar patch clamp chip).
  • Non-cell-based sensors also can be used in the system. Suitable non-cell based sensors include, but are not limited to: a surface plasmon energy sensor; an FET sensor; an ISFET; an electrochemical sensor; an optical sensor; an acoustic wave sensor; a sensor comprising a sensing element associated with a Quantum Dot particle; a polymer-based sensor; a single molecule or an array of molecules (e.g., nucleic acids, peptides, polypeptides, small molecules, and the like) immobilized on a substrate. The sensor chamber also can comprise a plurality of different types of sensors, non-cell based and/or cell-based. A sensor substrate can be affixed to the base of the chamber or the substrate can simply be placed on the base of the chamber. Alternatively, the base of the chamber itself also can serve as the sensor substrate and one or more sensing elements can be stably associated with the base using methods routine in the art. In one aspect, sensing elements are associated at known locations on a substrate or on the base of the sensor chamber.
  • However, an object placed within a chamber need not be a sensor. For example, the object can be a colloidal particle, beads, nanotube, a non-sensing molecule, silicon wafer, or other small elements.
  • The invention also provides a system comprising a substrate which comprises at least one chamber for receiving a cell-based biosensor, a plurality of channels, at least one cell storage chamber and at least one cell treatment chamber. Preferably, each channel comprises an outlet for delivering a fluid stream into the chamber, and the cell treatment chamber is adapted for delivering an electrical current to a cell placed within the cell treatment chamber. In one aspect, the cell treatment chamber further comprises a channel with an outlet for delivering a cell to the sensor chamber for receiving the cell-based biosensor. The system can be used to rapidly and programmably change the solution environment around a cell which has been electroporated and/or electrofused, and/or otherwise treated within the cell treatment chamber. Alternatively, or additionally, the sensor chamber also can be used as a treatment chamber and in one aspect, the sensor chamber is in electrical communication with one or more electrodes for continuously or intermittently exposing a sensor to an electric field.
  • In one aspect, a system according to the invention further comprises a scanning mechanism for scanning the position of a sensor relative to the outlets of the channels. The scanning mechanism can translate the substrate relative to a stationary sensor, or can translate the sensor relative to a stationary substrate, or can move both sensor and substrate at varying rates and directions relative to each other. In one aspect, the sensor is positioned relative to an outlet using a mechanism for holding the sensor (e.g., such as a pipette or capillary) coupled to a positioner (e.g., a micropositioner or nanopositioner or micromanipulator). Thus, the positioner can be used to move the sensor across a plurality of fluid streams exiting the outlets of the channels by moving the mechanism for holding the sensor. Alternatively, or additionally, scanning also can be regulated by producing pressure drops sequentially across adjacent microchannels.
  • Preferably, the scanning mechanism is in communication with a processor and translation occurs in response to instructions from the processor (e.g., programmed instructions or instructions generated as a result of a feedback signal). In one aspect, the processor controls one or more of: the rate of scanning, the direction of scanning, acceleration of scanning, and number of scans. Thus, the system can be used to move nanoscopic and microscopic objects in a chamber to user-selected, or system-selected coordinates, for specified (e.g., programmable) lengths of time. Preferably, the system processor also can be used to locate the position of one or more objects in the chamber, e.g., in response to previous scanning actions and/or in response to optical signals from the objects detected by the system detector. In one aspect, the system further comprises a user device in communication with the processor which comprises a graphical user display for interfacing with a user. For example, the display can be used to display coordinates of object(s) within the chamber, or optical data or other data obtained from the chamber.
  • The invention additionally provides a substrate comprising a chamber for receiving a cell-based biosensor which comprises a receptor or ion channel. In one aspect, the system sequentially exposes a cell-based biosensor for short periods of time to one or several ligands which binds to the receptor/ion channel and to buffer without ligand for short periods of time through interdigitated channels of the substrate. For example, selective exposure of a cell biosensor to these different solution conditions for short periods of time can be achieved by scanning the cell-based biosensor across interdigitated channels which alternate delivery of one or several ligands and buffer. The flow of buffer and sample solution in each microfluidic channel is preferably a steady state flow at constant velocity.
  • However, in another aspect, the system delivers pulses (e.g., pulsatile on/off flow) of buffer to a receptor through a superfusion capillary positioned in proximity to both the cell-based biosensor or other type of sensor and to an outlet through which a fluid is streaming. For example, the system can comprise a mechanism for holding the sensor which is coupled to a positioner (e.g., a micropositioner, nanopositioner, micromanipulator, etc.) for positioning the c sensor in proximity to the outlet and a capillary comprising an outlet in sufficient proximity to the mechanism for holding the sensor to deliver a buffer from the capillary to the sensor. A scanning mechanism can be used to move both the capillary and sensor simultaneously, to maintain the appropriate proximity of the capillary to the sensor. The capillary also can be coupled to a pumping mechanism to provide pulsatile delivery of buffer to the sensor. In another aspect, the flow rate of buffer from the one or more superfusion capillaries in proximity to one or more sensors can be higher or lower than the flow rate of fluid from the channels.
  • The invention further provides a substrate which comprises a circular chamber for receiving a sensor, comprising a cylindrical wall and a base. In one aspect, the substrate comprises a plurality of channels comprising outlets whose openings are radially disposed about the circumference of the wall of the chamber (e.g., in a spokes-wheel configuration), for delivering samples into the chamber. Preferably, the substrate also comprises at least one output channel for draining waste from the chamber. In one aspect, at least one additional channel delivers buffer to the chamber. Preferably, the angle between the at least one additional channel for delivering buffer and the output channel is greater than 10°. More preferably, the angle is greater than 90°. The channel “spokes” may all lie in the same plane, or at least two of the spokes may lie in different planes.
  • Rapid, programmed exchange of solutions in the chamber is used to alter the solution environment around a sensor placed in the chamber and multiple output channels can be provided in this configuration. For example, there may be an output channel for each channel for delivering sample/buffer. The number of channels for delivering also can be varied, e.g., to render the substrate suitable for interfacing with an industry standard microtiter plate. For example, there may be 96 to 1024 channels for delivering samples. In another aspect, there may be an additional, equal number of channels for delivering buffer (e.g., to provide interdigitating fluid streams of sample and buffer).
  • The invention also provides a multi-layered substrate for changing the solution environment around a sensor, comprising: a first substrate comprising channels for delivering fluid to a sensor; a filter layer for retaining one or more sensors which is in proximity to the first substrate; and a second substrate comprising a waste reservoir for receiving fluid from the filter layer. One or more sensors can be provided between the first substrate and the filter layer. In one aspect, at least one of the sensors is a cell. Preferably, the system further comprises a mechanism for creating a pressure differential between the first and second substrate to force fluid flowing from channels in the first substrate through the filter and into the waste reservoir, i.e., providing rapid fluid exchange through the filter (i.e., sensor) layer.
  • The invention additionally provides a substrate which comprises a chamber for receiving a sensor, a first channel comprising an outlet intersecting with the chamber, and a plurality of sample delivery channels intersecting with the first channel. The first channel also is connected to a buffer reservoir (e.g., through a connecting channel). In one aspect, the longitudinal axes of the sample delivery channels are parallel with respect to each other, but are angled with respect to the longitudinal axis of the first channel (e.g., providing a “fish bone” shape). Rapid flow of solution through the first channel and/or sample channels can be achieved through a positive pressure mechanism in communication with the buffer reservoir and/or sample channels. Passive one-way valves can be provided at the junction between sample delivery channels and the first channel to further regulate flow rates. In one aspect, at least one of the sample reservoirs is sealed by a septum which can comprise a needle or tube inserted therein.
  • The invention further provides a substrate which comprises a chamber for receiving a sensor, a plurality of delivery channels comprising outlets for feeding sample or buffer into the chamber, and a plurality of drain channels comprising inlets opposite the outlets of the delivery channels. The longitudinal axes of the delivery channels can be in the same, or a different plane, from the longitudinal axes of the drain channels. In one aspect, the plurality of drain channels is on top of the plurality of inlet channels (i.e., the substrate is three-dimensional).
  • Any of the systems described above can further comprise a pressure control device for controlling positive and negative pressure applied to at least one microchannel of the substrate. In systems where substrates comprise both delivery channels as well as output channel(s), the system preferably further comprises a mechanism for applying a positive pressure to at least one delivery channel while applying a negative pressure to at least one output channel. Preferably, hydrostatic pressure at least one of the channels can be changed in response to a feedback signal received by the processor.
  • The system can thus regulate when, and through which channel, a fluid stream is withdrawn from the chamber. For example, after a defined period of time, a fluid stream can be withdrawn from the chamber through the same channel through which it entered the system or through a different channel. When a drain channel is adjacent to a delivery channel, the system can generate a U-shaped fluid stream which can efficiently recycle compounds delivered through delivery channels.
  • As described above, multiple delivery channel configurations can be provided: straight, angled, branched, fish-bone shaped, and the like. In one aspect, each delivery channel comprises one or more intersecting channels whose longitudinal axes are perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the delivery channels. In another aspect, each delivery channel comprises one or more intersecting channels whose longitudinal axes are at an angle with respect to the delivery channel.
  • In general, any of the channel configurations described above are interfaceable with containers for delivering samples to the reservoirs or sample inlets (e.g., through capillaries or tubings connecting the containers with the reservoirs/inlets). In one aspect, at least one channel is branched, comprising multiple inlets. Preferably, the multiple inlets interface with a single container. However, multiple inlets also may interface with several different containers.
  • Further, any of the substrates described above can be interfaced to a multi-well plate (e.g., a microtiter plate) through one or more external tubings or capillaries. The one or more tubings or capillaries can comprise one or more external valves to control fluid flow through the tubings or capillaries. In one aspect, a plurality of the wells of the multi-well plates comprise known solutions. The system also can be interfaced with a plurality of microtiter plates; e.g., the plates can be stacked, one on top of the other. Preferably, the system further comprises a micropump for pumping fluids from the wells of a microtiter plate or other suitable container(s) into the reservoirs of the substrate. More preferably, the system programmably delivers fluids to selected channels of the substrate through the reservoirs.
  • In one aspect, a system according to the invention further comprises a detector in communication with a sensor chamber for detecting sensor responses. For example, the detector can be used to detect a change in one or more of: an electrical, optical, or chemical property of the sensor. In one aspect, in response to a signal from the detector, the processor alters one or more of: the rate of scanning, the direction of scanning, acceleration of scanning, number of scans, and pressure on one or more channels.
  • The invention also provides a method for changing an aqueous solution environment locally around a nanoscopic or microscopic object (e.g., such as a sensor). The method comprises providing a substrate which comprises an open volume chamber comprising a nanoscopic or microscopic object and an aqueous fluid. The substrate further comprises a plurality of channels, each channel comprising an outlet intersecting with the open volume chamber. Substantially separate aqueous streams of fluid are delivered into the open volume chamber, at least two of which comprise different fluids.
  • Preferably, fluid streams exiting from the at least two adjacent channels are collimated and laminar within the open volume. However, the system can comprise sets of channels (at least two adjacent channels) wherein at least one set delivers collimated laminar streams, while at least one other set delivers non-collimated, non-laminar streams. In one aspect, the streams flow at different velocities. Fluid can be delivered from the channels to the chamber by a number of different methods, including by electrophoresis and/or by electroosmosis and/or by pumping.
  • In one aspect, the longitudinal axes of the channels are substantially parallel. The channels can be arranged in a linear array, in a two-dimensional array, or in a three-dimensional array, can comprise treatment chambers, sensor chambers, reservoirs, and/or waste channels, and can be interfaced with container(s) or multi-well plate(s) as described above. In one aspect, output channels can overly input channels (i.e., in a three-dimensional configuration). Preferably, the longitudinal axis of at least one output or drain channel is parallel, but lying in a different plane, relative to the longitudinal axis of at least one input channel. By applying a positive pressure to an input channel at the same time that a negative pressure is applied to an adjacent output or drain channel, a U-shaped fluid stream can be generated within the chamber. In this way, an object within the chamber can be exposed to a compound in a fluid stream from an inlet channel which can, for example, be recycled by being withdrawn from the chamber through the adjacent output or drain channel. The U-shaped fluid streams can, preferably, be used to create local well-defined regions of fluid streams with specific composition in a large-volume reservoir or open volume.
  • Preferably, the object is scanned sequentially across the at least two aqueous fluid streams, thereby altering the aqueous solution environment around the object. Scanning can be performed by moving the substrate and/or the object, or, can be mediated by pressure drops applied to the channels.
  • The open volume chamber can comprise a plurality of objects; preferably, each object is scanned across at least two streams. Scanning can be performed by a scanning mechanism controlled by a processor as described above. The open volume can, additionally have inlets and outlets for adding and withdrawal of solution. For example, fresh buffer solution can be added to the recording chamber by using a peristaltic pump.
  • In one aspect, the method further comprises modifying one or more scanning parameters, such as the rate of scanning, the direction of scanning, acceleration of scanning, number of scans, and pressure across one or more channels. Scanning parameters can be modified in response to a feedback signal, such as a signal relating to the response of an object to one or more of aqueous streams. Scanning also can be coordinated with other system operations. For example, in a system comprising a cell-based biosensor, scanning can be coordinated with exposure of the biosensor to an electrical current, i.e., inducing pore formation in a cell membrane of the biosensor, as the biosensor is scanned past one or more sample outlets.
  • Hydrostatic pressure at one or more channels also can be varied by the processor according to programmed instructions and/or in response to a feedback signal. In one aspect, hydrostatic pressure at each of the plurality of channels is different.
  • In another aspect, the viscosity of fluids in at least two of the channels is different. In yet another aspect, fluid within at least two of the channels are at a different temperature. In a further aspect, the osmolarity of fluid within at least two of the channels is different. In a still further aspect, the ionic strength of fluid within at least two of the channels is different. Fluid in at least one of the channels also can comprise an organic solvent. By changing these parameters at different outlets, sensor responses can be optimized to maximize sensitivity of detection and minimize background. In some aspects, parameters also can be varied to optimize certain cell treatments being provided (e.g., such as electroporation or electrofusion).
  • The invention also provides a method for rapidly changing the solution environment around a nanoscopic or microscopic object which comprises rapidly exchanging fluid in a sensor chamber comprising the nanoscopic or microscopic object. In one aspect, fluid exchange in the chamber occurs within less than about 1 minute, preferably, with less than about 30 seconds, less than about 20 seconds, less than about 10 seconds, less than about 5 seconds, or less than about 1 second. In another aspect, fluid exchange occurs within milliseconds. In another aspect fluid exchange occurs within nanoseconds.
  • In one aspect, the method comprises providing a chamber comprising the object (which may be a sensor or even a single molecule), wherein the chamber comprises a plurality of inlet channels for delivering a fluid into the chamber and a plurality of outlet channels for draining fluid from the chamber. Preferably, the longitudinal axes of the drain channels are at an angle with respect to the longitudinal axes of the delivery channels. In one aspect, the longitudinal axis of at least one drain channel is ≧90° with respect to the longitudinal axis of a delivery channel. Preferably, the angle is about 180°. Fluid entering the chamber is withdrawn from the chamber after a predetermined period of time or in response to a feedback signal. By controlling the velocity of fluid flow through the inlet channels and the output or drain channels, complete exchange of fluid in the chamber can occur in less than about 30 seconds, and preferably, in milliseconds.
  • Preferably, the velocity of fluids in the channels at an angle with respect to each other is different. In one aspect, the hydrostatic pressure of fluids in the channels at an angle with respect to each other is different. In another aspect, the viscosity of fluids in the channels at an angle with respect to each other is different. In still another aspect, the osmolarity of fluids in the channels at an angle with respect to each other is different. In a further aspect, the ionic strength of fluids in the channels at an angle with respect to each other is different. In yet a further aspect, the channels at an angle with respect to each other comprise different organic solvents.
  • The chamber can be circular, comprising a cylindrical wall and a base and the outlets can be radially disposed around the circumference of the wall, i.e., in a two-dimensional or three-dimensional spokes-wheel configuration. Other configurations are also possible. For example, each delivery channel can comprise an intersecting inlet channel whose longitudinal axis is perpendicular to the delivery channel.
  • The method can generally be used to measure responses of a cell or portion thereof to a condition in an aqueous environment, by providing a cell or portion thereof in the chamber of any of the substrates described above, exposing the cell or portion thereof to one or more aqueous streams for creating the condition, and detecting and/or measuring the response of the cell or portion thereof to the condition. For example, the condition may be a chemical or a compound to which the cell or portion thereof is exposed and/or can be the osmolarity and/or ionic strength and/or temperature and/or viscosity of a solution in which the cell or portion thereof is bathed.
  • The composition of the bulk solution in the sensor chamber in any of the substrates described above can be controlled, e.g., to vary the ionic composition of the sensor chamber or to provide chemicals or compounds to the solution. For example, by providing a superfusion system in proximity to the sensor chamber, a chemical or a compound, such as a drug, can be added to the sensor chamber during the course of an experiment.
  • In one aspect, exposure of the cell or portion thereof to the condition occurs in the sensor chamber. However, alternatively, or additionally, exposure of the cell or portion thereof to the condition can occur in a microchamber which connects to the sensor chamber via one or more channels. The cell or portion thereof can be transferred to the sensor chamber in order to measure a response induced by changing the conditions around the cell.
  • In one aspect, the invention also provides a method for generating an activated receptor or ion channel in order to detect or screen for antagonists. The method comprises delivering a constant stream of an agonist to a cell-based biosensor in a sensor chamber through a plurality of microchannels feeding into the sensor chamber (e.g., using any of the substrates described above). Preferably, the cell-based biosensor expresses receptor/ion channel complexes which do not desensitize or which desensitize very slowly. Exposure of the biosensor to the agonist produces a measurable response, such that the receptor is activated each time it passes a microchannel delivering agonist. Preferably, a plurality of the agonist delivering microchannels also comprise antagonist whose presence can be correlated with a decrease in the measurable response (e.g., antagonism) when the cell-based biosensor passes by these microchannels. In one aspect, a plurality of microchannels comprises equal amounts of agonist but different concentrations of antagonist. Inhibition of the measurable response can thus be correlated with the presence of a particular dose of antagonist. In another aspect, a plurality of microchannels comprise equal amounts of agonist, but one or more, and preferably all of the plurality of microchannels, comprises different kinds of antagonists. In this way the activity of particular types of antagonists (or compounds suspected of being antagonists) can be monitored.
  • In one aspect, a periodically resensitized receptor is provided using the superfusion system described above to deliver pulses of buffer to the cell-based biosensor, to thereby remove any bound agonist or modulator desensitizing the receptor, before the receptor is exposed to the next channel outlet containing agonists or receptor modulators. In detection of antagonists, the pulsated superfusion system can also periodically remove the constantly applied agonist. A transient peak response (which is desensitized to a steady state response) is generated when the resensitized biosensor is exposed to the agonist. The generation of this peak response can provide a better signal-to-noise ratio in detection of antagonists.
  • In another aspect, ion-channels in a cell-based biosensor are continuously activated or periodically activated by changing the potential across the cell-membrane. This provides a sensor for detection of compounds or drugs modulating voltage-dependent ion-channels.
  • Responses measured by the systems or methods will vary with the type of sensor used. When a cell-based biosensor is used, the agonist-, antagonist-, or modulator-induced changes of the following parameters or cell properties can be measured: cell surface area, cell membrane stretching, ion-channel permeability, release of internal vesicles from a cell, retrieval of vesicles from a cell membrane, levels of intracellular calcium, ion-channel induced electrical properties (e.g., current, voltage, membrane capacitance, and the like), optical properties, or viability.
  • In one aspect, the sensor comprises at least one patch-clamped cell. For example, the method can be performed by combining the system with a traditional patch clamp set-up. Thus, a cell or cell membrane fraction can be positioned appropriately relative to channel outlets using a patch clamp pipette connected to a positioner such as a micropositioner or nanopositioner.
  • Alternatively, a patch-clamped cell or patch-clamped cell membrane fraction can be positioned in a depression in the base of the chamber which is in communication with one or more electrodes (e.g., providing a patch clamp chip).
  • The systems and methods according to the invention can be used to perform high throughput screening for ion channel ligands and for drugs or ligands which act directly or indirectly on ion channels. However, more generally, the systems and methods can be used to screen for compounds/conditions which affect any extracellular, intracellular, or membrane-bound target(s). Thus, the systems and methods can be used to characterize, for example, the effects of drugs on cell. Examples of data that can be obtained for such purposes according to the present invention includes but is not limited to: dose response curves, IC50 and EC50 values, voltage-current curves, on/off rates, kinetic information, thermodynamic information, etc.
  • Thus, the system can, for example, be used to characterize if an ion channel or receptor antagonists is a competitive or non-competitive inhibitor. The systems and methods according to the invention also can be used for toxicology screens, e.g., by monitoring cell viability in response to varying kinds or doses of compound, or in diagnostic screens. The method can also be used to internalize drugs, in the cell cytoplasm, for example, using electroporation to see if a drug effect is from interaction with a cell membrane bound outer surface receptor or target or through an intracellular receptor or target. It should be obvious to those of skill in the art that the systems according to the invention can be used in any method in which an object would benefit from a change in solution environment, and that such methods are encompassed within the scope of the instant invention.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES
  • The objects and features of the invention can be better understood with reference to the following detailed description and accompanying drawings. The Figures are not to scale.
  • FIGS. 1A and 1B show a schematic of a system according to one aspect of the invention showing integration of a microfluidic chip with patch clamp recordings of ion channel activity. FIG. 1A is a perspective view of a microfluidic chip in which a cell is positioned in proximity to microchannel outlets of the chip using a patch clamp micropipette connected to a positioner. FIG. 1B is a side view, partially in section, of FIG. 1A. FIG. 1C is a side view, partially in section, of a chip-based patch clamp system. In operation, the chip is preferably covered.
  • FIGS. 2A-C show top views of different embodiments of microfluidic chips according to aspects of the invention illustrating exemplary placements of reservoirs for interfacing with 96-well plates. FIG. 2A shows a chip comprising ligand reservoirs (e.g., the reservoirs receive samples of ligands from a 96-well plate). FIG. 2B shows a chip comprising alternating or interdigitating ligand and buffer reservoirs (e.g., every other reservoir receives samples of ligands from one 96-well plate, while the remaining reservoirs receive samples of buffer from another 96-well plate). As shown in FIG. 2C, additional reservoirs can be placed on chip for the storage and transfer of cells or other samples of interest.
  • FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a kit in accordance with one aspect of the invention illustrating a process for dispensing fluids from 96-well plates onto a microfluidic chip comprising interdigitating reservoirs using automated array pipettors and cell delivery using a pipette.
  • FIGS. 4A-C comprise a top view of a microfluidic chip structure for HTS of drugs according to one aspect of the invention, for scanning a sensor such as a patch-clamped cell or cells across interdigitated ligand and buffer streams. FIG. 4A depicts the overall chip structure for both a 2D and 3D microfluidic system. FIG. 4B shows an enlarged view of the reservoirs of the chip and their individual connecting channels. FIG. 4C shows an enlarged view of interdigitating microchannel whose outlets intersect with the sensor chamber of the chip.
  • FIG. 5A schematically depicts a top view of the interdigitating channels of a microfluidic chip, with a patch-clamped cell being moved past the outlets of the channels. FIGS. 5B and 5C depict side views of alternate embodiments of the outlets and microchannels. FIGS. 5B and 5C are side views showing a 2D and 3D microfluidic chip design, respectively. FIG. 5D is a perspective view of a 3D chip design according to one aspect of the invention, in which the chip comprises a bottom set and top set of channels. FIG. 5E is a side view of FIG. 5D, showing fluid flow can be controlled through pressure differentials so that fluid flowing out of a channel in the bottom set will make a “U-turn” into an overlying channel. FIG. 5F is a top view of FIG. 5D and shows cell scanning across the “U-turn” fluid streams.
  • FIG. 6A is a perspective view showing a 3D array of microchannel outlet arrangements for increased throughput in HTS applications. FIG. 6B depicts the use of a microchannel array as depicted in FIG. 6A, but with a plurality of patch-clamped cells. The arrows in the Figures indicate directions in which the patch-clamped cell(s) can be scanned.
  • FIGS. 7A-N are schematics showing chip designs for carrying out cell scanning across ligand streams using buffer superfusion to provide a periodically resensitized sensor. FIG. 7A is a perspective view of the overall chip design and microfluidic system. FIGS. 7B-G show enlarged views of the outlets of microchannels and their positions with respect to a superfusion capillary and a patch clamp pipette, as well as a procedure for carrying out cell superfusion while scanning a patch-clamped cell across different fluid streams. “P” indicates a source of pressure on fluid in a microchannel or capillary. Bold arrows indicate direction of movement. FIGS. 7H-7N show a different embodiment for superfusing cells. As shown in the perspective view in FIG. 7H, instead of providing capillaries for delivering buffer, a number of small microchannels placed at each of the outlets of the ligand delivery channels are used for buffer delivery. As a patch-clamped cell is moved to a ligand channel and the system detects a response, a pulse of buffer can be delivered via the small microchannels onto the cell for superfusion. The advantage to using this system is that the exposure time of the patch-clamped cell to a ligand can be precisely controlled by varying the delay time between signal detection and buffer superfusion. FIG. 7I is a cross-section through the side of a microfluidic system used in this way showing proximity of a patch-clamped cell to both ligand and buffer outlets. FIG. 7J is a cross section, front view of the system, showing flow of buffer streams. FIG. 7K is a cross-section through a top view of the device showing flow of ligand streams and placement of the buffer microchannels. FIGS. 7L-7M show use of pressure applied to a ligand and/or buffer channel to expose a patch clamped cell to ligand and then buffer.
  • FIGS. 8A-I are top views of microchannel outlets in relationship to a patch-clamped cell, collectively showing different methods by which a patch-clamped cell can be moved in relation to the fluid streams. FIGS. 8A-C show mechanical scanning of the patched cell across stationary microchannel outlets. FIGS. 8D-F show mechanical scanning of microchannel outlets relative to a stationary patch-clamped cell. FIGS. 8G-I show a method for sweeping fluid streams across an immobilized patched cell by controlled variation of the pressure across, and flow rates through, each individual microchannel.
  • FIGS. 9A-C are top views of one design of a microfluidic chip for carrying out cycles of rapid delivery and withdrawal of compounds into and from a cell chamber for housing a patch-clamped cell. FIG. 9A shows the overall arrangements of the microchannels feeding the cell chamber. FIG. 9B is an expanded view of reservoirs and the individual channels through which they are accessed. FIG. 9C shows an enlarged view of microchannel outlets which feed into the cell chamber.
  • FIG. 10 is an enlarged top view of the cell chamber of FIG. 9A, depicting the arrangement of microchannels around a cell chamber comprising a patch-clamped cell.
  • FIGS. 11A-C are top views showing a microfluidic chip for carrying out rapid and sequential exchange of fluids around a patch-clamped cell. FIG. 11A shows the overall arrangement of channels feeding into, and draining from, a cell chamber. The drain channels feed into a plurality of reservoirs such that the pressure drops across each channel can be independently controlled. FIG. 11B shows an enlarged view of reservoirs and their connecting channels. FIG. 11C shows an enlarged view of microchannel outlets which feed into the cell chamber.
  • FIG. 12 is an enlarged illustration of FIG. 11A, depicting the arrangement of and flow directions of fluids in microchannels around a cell chamber with a patch-clamped cell in a planar 2D microfluidic system according to one aspect of the invention.
  • FIG. 13 is an enlarged perspective view of the system of FIG. 11A depicting the arrangement of microchannels, and flow directions in a 3D microfluidic system according to one aspect of the invention.
  • FIGS. 14A-C are top views depicting the chip structure of a fishbone design for carrying out rapid and sequential exchange of fluids around a patch-clamped cell (not shown) according to one aspect of the invention. In the example shown in FIG. 14A, a single drain channel is provided which feeds into a single waste reservoir. FIG. 14B shows an enlarged view of reservoirs for providing sample to the microchannels. FIG. 14C shows an enlarged view of a plurality of inlet channels intersecting with a central “spine” channel which feeds sample into the sensor chamber. In this enlarged view, intersecting channels are perpendicular to the spine channel rather than slanted; either configuration is possible.
  • FIG. 15 is a schematic illustration of an enlarged view of FIG. 14A depicting arrangements of, and flow directions in, microchannels, and a patch-clamped cell in a chip according to one aspect of the invention, as well as the presence of passive one-way valves, which are schematically depicted as crosses.
  • FIGS. 16A and B are microphotographs showing flow profiles at the outlet of a single microchannel (FIG. 16A) and an array of microchannels (FIG. 16B). Fluid flow was imaged under fluorescence using a fluorescent dye (fluorescein) as a flow tracer. The channels were 100-μm wide, 50 μm thick, with an inter-channel spacing of 25 μm; the flow rate was 4 mm/s.
  • FIG. 17 is a schematic illustrating the arrangement of the outlets of an interdigitating array of microchannels in which varying dilutions of a sample (e.g., a drug) are provided in every other microchannel. By scanning a patch-clamped cell across the outlets of the channels, dose-response measurements can be obtained.
  • FIGS. 18A-I show schematics of systems for obtaining dose-response measurements based on high-frequency superfusion and re-sensitization of a patch-clamped cell. Superfusion can be achieved through a capillary co-axially placed with respect to a patch-clamp pipette, or through any capillary placed adjacent to the patch pipette which is suitable for superfusion, while translating the patch-clamped cell across a concentration gradient created by streams exiting microchannel outlets. FIGS. 18A-C show a concentration gradient generated by diffusion broadening of a ligand plug in a microchannel. FIGS. 18D-F show lateral diffusion spreading of a ligand stream as it exits a microchannel. FIG. 18G-H show the use of networks of microchannels. “P” indicates a source of pressure applied at one or more microchannels of the systems.
  • FIGS. 19A-C show scanning electron micrographs of microchannels fabricated in silicon. FIG. 19A shows simple microchannel arrangements in which the patch-clamped cell or cells can be scanned across interdigitated ligand and buffer streams. FIG. 19B shows a simple planar radial spokes-wheel structure for carrying out cycles of rapid delivery and withdrawal of compounds into and from a cell chamber housing a patch-clamped cell. FIG. 19C shows a simple fishbone arrangement of microchannel outlets for carrying out rapid and sequential exchange of fluids around a patch-clamped cell.
  • FIG. 20 shows whole cell patch clamp recordings of transmembrane current responses elicited by manual repeated scanning of a cell across the channel outlet where it was superfused by buffer into an open reservoir containing acetylcholine (1 mM). A train of peaks are produced by repeated manual scanning of the patched cell across the superfusion-generated gradient. The cell was scanned back and forth at an average scan rate of 100 μm/s and at a maximum rate of up to 150 μm/s across the entire outlet of the microchannel depicted in the inset.
  • FIGS. 21A-D show patch clamp current responses of a whole cell to 1 mM acetylcholine as the patch-clamped cell is scanned across the outlets of a parallel 7-channel structure (same structure as that shown in FIG. 16B). Channels 1, 3, 5 and 7 were filled with PBS buffer, while channels 2, 4 and 6 were filled with acetylcholine. The channel flow rate was 6.8 mm/s and the cell scanning speeds in the Figures were A) 0.61 mm/s, B) 1.22 mm/s, C) 2 mm/s and in D) 4 mm/s
  • FIG. 22 shows patch clamp current responses of a whole cell to 1 mM acetylcholine as the patch-clamped cell was scanned across the outlets of a 7-channel structure (same structure as that shown in FIG. 16B). Channels 1, 3, 5 and 7 were filled with PBS buffer; channels 2, 4 and 6 with acetylcholine. The channel flow rate was 2.7 mm/s and the cell scanning speed was 6.25 μm/s.
  • FIG. 23 shows concentration-dependent patch clamp current responses of whole cells to 1 μM, 12 μM and 200 μM nicotine as the patch-clamped cell was scanned across the outlets of a 7-channel structure (same structure as that shown in FIG. 16B); channels 1, 3, 5 and 7 were filled with PBS buffer; channel 2 with 1 μM, 4 with 12 μM and 6 with 200 μM nicotine respectively. The flow rate was 3.24 mm/s and the cell scanning speed was 250 μm/s.
  • FIGS. 24A-C show agonist screening according to one method of the invention using a microfluidic chip comprising 26 outlets feeding into a sensor chamber. As shown in FIG. 24A, the screen is performed linearly from channel outlet position 1 to 26. The scans can be repeated until a sufficient number of scans are performed. A simulated trace and score sheet are shown in FIGS. 24B and C for a single forward scan across microfluidic channel outlets. From this analysis, α 6 is the agonist with highest potency, followed by α 2.
  • FIGS. 25A-C show a method for antagonist screening according to one aspect of the invention using a microfluidic chip comprising 26 outlets feeding into a sensor chamber. As shown in FIG. 25A, the screen is performed linearly from position 1-to-26. The scans can be repeated until a sufficient number of scans are performed. As shown in the simulated trace and score sheet, FIGS. 25B and C, respectively, for a single forward scan across microfluidic channel outlets, ζ 3 is the antagonist with highest potency followed by ζ 5.
  • FIGS. 26A-C show a method for dose-response screening using a microfluidic chip comprising 28 outlets feeding into a sensor chamber. As shown in FIG. 24A, the screen is performed linearly from channel outlet position 1 to 28. The scans can be repeated until a sufficient number of scans are performed. A simulated trace and score sheet are shown in FIGS. 26B and C for a single forward scan across microfluidic channel outlets. From these data, a dose-response curve can be created for the unknown agonist α.
  • FIGS. 27A-C show a method for agonist screening using a microfluidic chip comprising 14 outlets feeding into a sensor chamber and high repetition rate buffer superfusion using a fluidic channel placed close to a patch-clamped cell. As shown in FIG. 27A, the screen is performed linearly from channel outlet position 1 to -14. The scans can be repeated until a sufficient number of scans are performed. A simulated trace for a single forward scan across microfluidic channel outlets and score sheet are shown in FIGS. 27B-C. A plurality of peak responses are obtained per single microchannel outlet. From this analysis, α 3 is the agonist with highest potency, followed by α 5.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
  • The invention provides a system and method for rapidly and programmably altering the local solution environment around a sensor, such as a cell-based biosensor. The invention further provides a system and method for interfacing microfluidics with patch-clamp detection.
  • DEFINITIONS
  • The following definitions are provided for specific terms which are used in the following written description.
  • As used herein, a “microchannel” refers to a groove in a substrate comprising two walls, a base, at least one inlet and at least one outlet. In one aspect, a microchannel also has a roof. The term “micro” does not imply a lower limit on size, and the term “microchannel” is generally used interchangeably with “channel”. Preferably, a microchannel ranges in size from about 0.1 μm to about 500 μm, and more preferably ranges from, 1 μm to about 150 μm.
  • As used herein, a “positioner” refers to a mechanism or instrument that is capable of moving an object or device (e.g., a substrate, a sensor, a cell, a mechanism for holding a sensor, etc.) to which it is coupled. Preferably, the positioner can control movement of an object over distances such as nanometers (e.g., the petitioner is a nanopositioner), micrometers (e.g., the positioner is a micropositioner) and/or millimeters. Suitable positioners move at least in an x-, y-, or z-direction. In one aspect, positioners according to the invention also rotate about any pivot point defined by a user. In a preferred aspect, the positioner is coupled to a drive unit that communicates with a processor, allowing movement of the object to be controlled by the processor through programmed instructions, use of joysticks or other similar instruments, or a combination thereof.
  • As used herein, “a mechanism for holding a sensor” refers to a device for receiving at least a portion of a sensor to keep the sensor in a relatively stationary position relative to the mechanism. In one aspect, the mechanism comprises an opening for receiving at least a portion of a sensor. For example, such mechanisms include, but are not limited to: a patch clamp pipette, a capillary, a hollow electrode, and the like.
  • As used herein, the term “moving a sensor” refers to moving the sensor directly or through the use of a mechanism for holding the sensor which is itself moved.
  • As used herein, a “chamber” refers to an area formed by walls (which may or may not have openings) surrounding a base. A chamber may be “open volume” (e.g., uncovered) or “closed volume” (e.g., covered by a coverslip, for example). A “sensor chamber” is one which receives one or more sensors and comprises outlets in one or more walls from at least two microchannels. However, a sensor chamber according to the invention generally can receive one or more nanoscopic or microscopic objects, without limitation as to their purpose. A sensor chamber can comprise multiple walls in different, not necessarily parallel planes, or can comprise a single wall which is generally cylindrical (e.g., when the chamber is “disc-shaped”). It is not intended that the geometry of the sensor chamber be a limiting aspect of the invention. One or more of the wall(s) and/or base can be optically transmissive. Generally, a sensor chamber ranges in size but is at least about 1 μm. In one aspect, the dimensions of the chamber are at least large enough to receive at least a single cell, such as a mammalian cell. The sensor chamber also can be a separate entity from the substrate comprising the microchannels. For example, in one aspect, the sensor chamber is a petrie dish and the microchannels extend to a surface of the substrate opening into the petrie dish so as to enable fluid communication between the microchannels and the petrie dish.
  • As used herein, a “sensor” refers to a device comprising one or more molecules capable of producing a measurable response upon interacting with a condition in an aqueous environment to which the molecule is exposed (e.g., such as the presence of a compound which binds to the one or more molecules). In one aspect, the molecule(s) are immobilized on a substrate, while in another aspect, the molecule(s) are part of a cell (e.g., the sensor is a “cell-based biosensor”).
  • As used herein, “a nanoscopic or microscopic object” is an object whose dimensions are in the nm to mm range.
  • As used herein, the term, “a cell-based biosensor” refers to an intact cell or a part of an intact cell (e.g., such as a membrane patch) which is capable of providing a detectable physiological response upon sensing a condition in an aqueous environment in which the cell (or part thereof) is placed. In one aspect, a cell-based biosensor is a whole cell or part of a cell membrane in electrical communication with an electrically conductive element, such as a patch clamp electrode or an electrolyte solution.
  • As used herein, the term “receptor” refers to a macromolecule capable of specifically interacting with a ligand molecule. Receptors may be associated with lipid bilayer membranes, such as cellular, golgi, or nuclear membranes, or may be present as free or associated molecules in a cell's cytoplasm or may be immobilized on a substrate. A cell-based biosensor comprising a receptor can comprise a receptor normally expressed by the cell or can comprise a receptor which is non-native or recombinantly expressed (e.g., such as in transfected cells or oocytes).
  • As used herein, “periodically resensitized” or “periodically responsive” refers to an ion-channel which is maintained in a closed (i.e., ligand responsive) position when it is scanned across microchannel outlets providing samples suspected or known to comprise a ligand. For example, in one aspect, an receptor or ion-channel is periodically resensitized by scanning it across a plurality of interdigitating channels providing alternating streams of sample and buffer. The rate at which the receptor/ion channel is scanned across the interdigitating channels is used to maintain the receptor/ion-channel in a ligand-responsive state when it is exposed to a fluid stream comprising sample. Additionally, or alternatively, the receptor/ion channel can be maintained in a periodically resensitized state by providing pulses of buffer, e.g., using one or more superfusion capillaries, to the ion channel, or by providing rapid exchange of solutions in a sensor chamber comprising the ion channel.
  • As used herein, a “substantially separate fluid stream” refers to a flowing fluid in a volume of fluid (e.g., such as within a chamber) that is physically continuous with fluid outside the stream within the volume, or other streams within the volume, but which has at least one bulk property which differs from and is in non-equilibrium from a bulk property of the fluid outside of the stream or other streams within the volume of fluid. A “bulk property” as used herein refers to the average value of a particular property of a component (e.g., such as an agent, solute, substance, or a buffer molecule) in the stream over a cross-section of the stream, taken perpendicular to the direction of flow of the stream. A “property” can be a chemical or physical property such as a concentration of the component, temperature, pH, ionic strength, or velocity, for example.
  • As used herein, the term “in communication with” refers to the ability of a system or component of a system to receive input data from another system or component of a system and to provide an output response in response to the input data. “Output” may be in the form of data, or may be in the form of an action taken by the system or component of the system. For example, a processor “in communication with a scanning mechanism” sends program instructions in the form of signals to the scanning mechanism to control various scanning parameters as described above. A “detector in communication with a sensor chamber” refers to a detector in sufficient optical proximity to the sensor chamber to receive optical signals (e.g., light) from the sensor chamber. A “light source in optical communication” with a chamber refers to a light source in sufficient proximity to the chamber to create a light path from the chamber to a system detector so that optical properties of the chamber or objects contained therein can be detected by the detector.
  • As used herein, “a measurable response” refers to a response which differs significantly from background as determined using controls appropriate for a given technique.
  • As used herein, an outlet “intersecting with” a chamber or microchamber refers to an outlet that opens or feeds into a wall or base or top of the chamber or microchamber or into a fluid volume contained by the chamber or microchamber.
  • As used herein, “superfuse” refers to washing the external surface of an object or sensor (e.g., such as a cell).
  • The System
  • In one aspect, the system provides a substrate comprising a plurality of microchannels fabricated thereon whose outlets intersect with, or feed into, a sensor chamber comprising one or more sensors. The system further comprises a scanning mechanism for programmably altering the position of the microchannels relative to the one or more sensors and a detector for monitoring the response of the sensor to exposure to solutions from the different channels. In a preferred aspect, the sensor chamber comprises a cell-based biosensor in electrical communication with an electrode and the detector detects changes in electrical properties of the cell-based biosensor.
  • The system preferably also comprises a processor for implementing system operations including, but not limited to: controlling the rate of scanning by the scanning mechanism (e.g., mechanically or through programmable pressure drops across microchannels), controlling fluid flow through one or more channels of the substrate, controlling the operation of valves and switches that are present for directing fluid flow, recording sensor responses detected by the detector, and evaluating and displaying data relating to sensor responses. Preferably, the system also comprises a user device in communication with the system processor which comprises a graphical interface for displaying operations of the system and for altering system parameters.
  • The Substrate
  • In a preferred aspect, the system comprises a substrate that delivers solutions to one or more sensors at least partially contained within a sensor chamber. The substrate can be configured as a two-dimensional (2D) or three-dimensional (3D) structure, as described further below. The substrate, whether 2D or 3D, generally comprises a plurality of microchannels whose outlets intersect with a sensor chamber that receives the one or more sensors. The base of the sensor chamber can be optically transmissive to enable collection of optical data from the one or more sensors placed in the sensor chamber. When the top of the sensor chamber is covered, e.g., by a coverslip or overlying substrate, the top of the chamber is preferably optically transmissive.
  • Each microchannel comprises at least one inlet (e.g., for receiving a sample or a buffer). Preferably, the inlets receive solution from reservoirs (e.g., shown as circles in FIGS. 2A and B) that conform in geometry and placement on the substrate to the geometry and placement of wells in an industry-standard microtiter plate. The substrate is a removable component of the system and therefore, in one aspect, the invention provides kits comprising one or more substrates for use in the system, providing a user with the option of choosing among different channel geometries.
  • Non-limiting examples of different substrate materials include crystalline semiconductor materials (e.g., silicon, silicon nitride, Ge, GaAs), metals (e.g., Al, Ni), glass, quartz, crystalline insulators, ceramics, plastics or elastomeric materials (e.g., silicone, EPDM and Hostaflon), other polymers (e.g., a fluoropolymer, such as Teflon®, polymethylmethacrylate, polydimethylsiloxane, polyethylene, polypropylene, polybutylene, polymethylpentene, polystyrene, polyurethane, polyvinyl chloride, polyarylate, polyarylsulfone, polycaprolactone, polyestercarbonate, polyimide, polyketone, polyphenylsulfone, polyphthalamide, polysulfone, polyamide, polyester, epoxy polymers, thermoplastics, and the like), other organic and inorganic materials, and combinations thereof.
  • Microchannels can be fabricated on these substrates using methods routine in the art, such as deep reactive ion etching (described further below in Example 1). Channel width can vary depending upon the application, as described further below, and generally ranges from about 0.1 μm to about 10 mm, preferably, from about 1 μm to about 150 μm, while the dimensions of the sensor chamber generally will vary depending on the arrangement of channel outlets feeding into the chamber. For example, where the outlets are substantially parallel to one another (e.g., as in FIGS. 2A-C), the length of the longitudinal axis of the chamber is at least the sum of the widths of the outlets which feed into the chamber. In one aspect, where a whole cell biosensor is used as a sensor in the sensor chamber, the width of one or more outlets of the microchannels is at least about the diameter of the cell. Preferably, the width of each of the outlets is at least about the diameter of the cell.
  • In one aspect, a cover layer of an optically transmissive material, such as glass, can be bonded to a substrate, using methods routine in the art, preferably leaving openings over the reservoirs and over the sensor chamber when interfaced with a traditional micropipette-based patch clamp detection system. Preferably, the base of the sensor chamber also is optically transmissive, to facilitate the collection of opt