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Development of a thermal sensor to probe cell viability and concentration in cell suspensions
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This paper presents a novel biothermal sensor to probe cell viability and concentration of a cell suspension. The sensing technique exploits the thermophysical properties of the suspension, so no labeling of suspended cells is required. When the sensor is periodically heated, the amplitude and phase of the thermal signal are dependent on the thermal properties of the cell suspension, particularly the thermal conductivity k. We measured k of HeLa, hepatocyte, and NIH-3T3 J2 cell suspensions with various concentrations and viabilities. The results demonstrate that the k of a cell suspension has a strong correlation with its concentration and viability. Accordingly, k can be employed as an index of cell concentration and viability. Furthermore, without data processing to obtain k, the electric signal that reflects the thermal response of the sensor can be used as a tool to probe viability of a cell suspension in real time. The proposed thermal sensing technique offers label-free, non-invasive, long-term, and real-time means to probe the viability and concentration of cells in a suspension.
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