Isotropically etched silicon microarrays for rapid breast cancer cell capture

Mehdi Nikkhah, Jeannine S. Strobl, Vaishnavi Srinivasaraghavan, Masoud Agah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


In this paper, we describe design and fabrication of 3-D silicon microarrays consisting of a wide range of isotropically-etched concave cavities for cell-capturing applications. The microarrays supported rapid and efficient capture of metastatic human breast cancer cells (MDA-MB-231) from single-cell suspensions. Furthermore, the captured cells adhered and were retained within the etched cavities for at least 72 h. Cavity spacing of 30-50 μm was most suitable for capture of the cells within microwells. Cell capture was evident within 1 min and was essentially complete by 20-30 min. Capture of 10 μm beads proceeded with a similar time frame and efficiency. Cell capture was 80%-90% efficient and was independent of cavity diameters tested: 35, 60, 70, and 100 μm. The depth of the microwells ranged from 28 to 54 μm. For single-cell capture, the 35 μm diameter cavity was optimal. The larger cavities contained 3-10 cells and were better suited for applications sensing cell proliferation, cell-cell interactions, stem cell differentiation, and drug responsiveness. The proposed silicon microarrays did not require any chemical coating or surface modification to support micro co-cultures of normal human breast epithelial cells (MCF10A) and MDA-MB-231 after cell trapping. This paper demonstrates that the silicon microarrays efficiently capture individual human breast cancer cells from a mono-culture suspension and in a mixture of excess MCF10A. Therefore the developed silicon platform is suitable for efficient detection and sensing of individual human breast cancer cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6359735
Pages (from-to)1125-1132
Number of pages8
JournalIEEE Sensors Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Breast cancer
  • co-culture
  • isotropic microarray
  • silicon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Instrumentation
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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