Quantitative Deformability Cytometry: Rapid, Calibrated Measurements Of Cell Mechanical Properties

Tech ID: 29401 / UC Case 2017-99C-0


UCLA researchers in the Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology have developed a novel microfluidic device that enables rapid measurement of cell mechanical properties.


Cell mechanical properties are emerging as a label-free biomarker for altered cell and pathological states. Information about cells, such as their elastic modulus, viscosity, or compliance, can be acquired using a variety of standard measurement techniques. However, these measurements are often at slow rates (~1 cell/min) and faster throughputs are difficult to achieve. Deformability cytometry methods have been developed for high throughput methods, but these typically do not enable calibrated measurements of cell mechanical properties and/or cannot enable higher throughput analyses of single cells.


UCLA researchers have developed a novel method of cytometry to measure cell mechanical properties. Cells are constrained using air pressure through a microfluidic device and their progress through the network of channels is measured using a brightfield microscope. Images are captured at rates between 200 and 2000 frames per second, and morphological changes in the cells are tracked using a software algorithm. The applied stress within the microfluidic device is accurately calibrated using agarose gel particles of known properties and then used to calculate cell mechanical properties (time-dependent strain, critical strain, creep time, and transit time).


  • Mechanical measurements of single cells
  • Mechanotyping of cells 
  • Detection of diseases in which the cell undergoes a mechanical change 
  • Evaluation of disease treatment efficacy in vitro


  • Measures 103 cells/min 
  • Single-cell measurements 
  • Calibrated to agarose gel particles of known properties

State Of Development

Successful measurement of cell mechanical properties using the developed microfluidic device. The method was validated by measuring human leukemia cells before and after treatment with cytoskeletal-perturbing drugs.

Patent Status

Country Type Number Dated Case
Patent Cooperation Treaty Published Application WO2018006188 01/03/2019 2017-99C

Additional Patent Pending


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  • Rowat, Amy C.

Other Information


fluid-based deformability cytometry, cell mechanotype, disease, microfluidics, bag of words, single cell analysis

Categorized As