Real-Time Deformability Cytometry: Label-Free Functional Characterization of Cells

  • Maik Herbig
  • Martin Kräter
  • Katarzyna Plak
  • Paul Müller
  • Jochen GuckEmail author
  • Oliver Otto
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1678)


Real-time deformability cytometry (RT-DC) is a microfluidic technique that allows to capture and evaluate morphology and rheology of up to 1000 cells/s in a constricted channel. The cells are deformed without mechanical contact by hydrodynamic forces and are quantified in real-time without the need of additional handling or staining procedures. Segmented pictures of the cells are stored and can be used for further analysis. RT-DC is sensitive to alterations of the cytoskeleton, which allows, e.g., to show differences in cell cycle phases, identify different subpopulations in whole blood and to study mechanical stiffening of cells entering a dormant state. The abundance of the obtainable parameters and the interpretation as mechanical readout is an analytical challenge that needs standardization. Here, we will provide guidelines for measuring and post-processing of RT-DC data.

Key words

Label-free cytometry Microfluidics Image analysis Automated segmentation Morphometry Rheology Cell mechanics Cytoskeleton Linear mixed models 



We thank the BIOTEC/CRTD Microstructure Facility (partly funded by the State of Saxony and the European Fund for Regional Development—EFRE) and Dr. Salvatore Girardo for the development and production of the master templates. We acknowledge financial support from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (Alexander von Humboldt Professorship to J.G.), the Sächsisches Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kunst (TG70 grant to O.O. and J.G.), the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (ZIK grant to O.O. under no. 03Z22CN11), and the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme under grant agreement no. 632222 (Proof-Of-Concept Grant FastTouch to J.G.).

Conflict of Interest Statement

O.O. is co-founder and CEO of Zellmechanik Dresden distributing the technology.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maik Herbig
    • 1
  • Martin Kräter
    • 2
  • Katarzyna Plak
    • 1
  • Paul Müller
    • 1
  • Jochen Guck
    • 1
    Email author
  • Oliver Otto
    • 3
  1. 1.Biotechnology CenterTechnische Universität DresdenDresdenGermany
  2. 2.Universitätsklinikum Carl Gustav CarusTechnische Universität DresdenDresdenGermany
  3. 3.Zentrum für Innovationskompetenz: Humorale Immunreaktionen bei Kardiovaskulären ErkrankungenUniversität GreifswaldGreifswaldGermany

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