A continuous flow cell culture system for precision cell stimulation and time-resolved profiling of cell secretion

Patrick Erickson, Tony Houwayek, Alexandra Burr, Matthew Teryek, Biju Parekkadan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cells exchange substances with their surroundings during metabolism, signaling, and other functions. These fluxes are dynamic, changing in response to external cues and internal programs. Static cultures are inadequate for measuring these dynamics because the environments of the cells change as substances accumulate or deplete from medium, unintentionally affecting cell behavior. Static cultures offer limited time resolution due to the impracticality of frequent or prolonged manual sampling, and cannot expose cells to smooth, transient changes in stimulus concentrations. In contrast, perfusion cultures constantly maintain cellular environments and continuously sample the effluent stream. Existing perfusion culture systems are either microfluidic, which are difficult to make and use, or macrofluidic devices built from custom parts that neglect solute dispersion. In this study, a multiplexed macrofluidic perfusion culture platform was developed to measure secretion and absorption rates of substances by cells in a temporally controlled environment. The modular platform handles up to 31 streams with automated fraction collection. This paper presents the assembly of this dynamic bioreactor from commercially available parts, and a method for quantitatively handling the effects of dispersion using residence time distributions. The system is then applied to monitor the secretion of a circadian clock gene-driven reporter from engineered cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114213
JournalAnalytical Biochemistry
StatePublished - Jul 15 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


  • Bioreactor
  • Circadian
  • Dynamics
  • Residence time distribution
  • Secretion
  • Stimulation


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