Biomedical Microdevices

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 79–90 | Cite as

Single-cell analysis of embryoid body heterogeneity using microfluidic trapping array

  • Jenna L. Wilson
  • Shalu Suri
  • Ankur Singh
  • Catherine A. Rivet
  • Hang Lu
  • Todd C. McDevitt


The differentiation of pluripotent stem cells as embryoid bodies (EBs) remains a common method for inducing differentiation toward many lineages. However, differentiation via EBs typically yields a significant amount of heterogeneity in the cell population, as most cells differentiate simultaneously toward different lineages, while others remain undifferentiated. Moreover, physical parameters, such as the size of EBs, can modulate the heterogeneity of differentiated phenotypes due to the establishment of nutrient and oxygen gradients. One of the challenges in examining the cellular composition of EBs is the lack of analytical methods that are capable of determining the phenotype of all of the individual cells that comprise a single EB. Therefore, the objective of this work was to examine the ability of a microfluidic cell trapping array to analyze the heterogeneity of cells comprising EBs during the course of early differentiation. The heterogeneity of single cell phenotype on the basis of protein expression of the pluripotent transcription factor OCT-4 was examined for populations of EBs and single EBs of different sizes at distinct stages of differentiation. Results from the cell trap device were compared with flow cytometry and whole mount immunostaining. Additionally, single cells from dissociated pooled EBs or individual EBs were examined separately to discern potential differences in the value or variance of expression between the different methods of analysis. Overall, the analytical method described represents a novel approach for evaluating how heterogeneity is manifested in EB cultures and may be used in the future to assess the kinetics and patterns of differentiation in addition to the loss of pluripotency.


Stem cells Embryoid bodies Heterogeneity Microfluidics 



This work was supported by funding from the NIH R01EB010061(T.C.M.) and NIH R21EB012803 (H.L.), ARRA sub-award under RC1CA144825 (H.L.), a Sloan Foundation Fellowship (H.L.), NSF CBET 0954578 (H.L.). J.L.W. is currently supported by a GAANN Fellowship (Department of Education P200A090099) and previously by an NSF IGERT (DGE 0965945).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jenna L. Wilson
    • 1
  • Shalu Suri
    • 2
  • Ankur Singh
    • 3
  • Catherine A. Rivet
    • 1
  • Hang Lu
    • 2
    • 4
  • Todd C. McDevitt
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.The Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical EngineeringGeorgia Institute of Technology and Emory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.School of Chemical & Biomolecular EngineeringGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.The George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical EngineeringGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  4. 4.The Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and BioscienceGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA

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