Microfluidics for in vitro biomimetic shear stress-dependent leukocyte adhesion assays

Elena Bianchi, Raffaella Molteni, Ruggero Pardi, Gabriele Dubini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recruitment of leukocytes from blood to tissues is a multi-step process playing a major role in the activation of inflammatory responses. Tethering and rolling of leukocytes along the vessel wall, followed by arrest and transmigration through the endothelium result from chemoattractant-dependent signals, inducing adhesive and migratory events. Shear forces exerted by the blood flow on leukocytes induce rolling via selectin-mediated interactions with endothelial cells and increase the probability of leukocytes to engage their chemokine receptors, facilitating integrin activation and consequent arrest. Flow-derived shear forces generate mechanical stimuli concurring with biochemical signals in the modulation of leukocyte-endothelial cell interactions. In the last few years, a host of in vitro studies have clarified the biochemical adhesion cascade and the role of shear stress in leukocyte extravasation. The limitation of the static environment in Boyden devices has been overcome both by the use of parallel-plate flow chambers and by custom models mimicking the in vivo conditions, along with widespread microfluidic approaches to in vitro modeling. These devices create an in vitro biomimetic environment where the multi-step transmigration process can be imaged and quantified under mechanical and biochemical controlled conditions, including fluid dynamic settings, channel design, materials and surface coatings. This paper reviews the technological solutions recently proposed to model, observe and quantify leukocyte adhesion behavior under shear flow, with a final survey of high-throughput solutions featuring multiple parallel assays as well as thorough and time-saving statistical interpretation of the experimental results.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-283
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 18 2013


  • High-throughput
  • Leukocyte adhesion and transmigration
  • Microfluidics
  • Parallel-plate flow chambers
  • Shear-stress dependent cellular in vitro assay

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Rehabilitation
  • Biophysics
  • Biomedical Engineering


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