Sensitivity of cell-based biosensors to environmental variables
Electrically active living cells cultured on extracellular electrode arrays are utilized to detect biologically active agents. Because cells are highly sensitive to environmental conditions, environmental fluctuations can elicit cellular responses that contribute to the noise in a cell-based biosensor system. Therefore, the characterization and control of environmental factors such as temperature, pH, and osmolarity is critical in such a system. The cell-based biosensor platform described here utilizes the measurement of action potentials from cardiac cells cultured on electrode arrays. A recirculating fluid flow system is presented for use in dose-response experiments that regulates temperature within +/-0.2degreesC, pH to within +/-0.05 units, and allows no significant change in osmolarity. Using this system, the relationship between the sensor output parameters and environmental variation was quantified. Under typical experimental conditions, beat rate varied approximately 10% per degree change in temperature or per 0.1 unit change in pH. Similar relationships were measured for action potential amplitude, duration, and conduction velocity. For the specific flow system used in this work, the measured environmental sensitivity resulted in an overall beat rate variation of +/-4.7% and an overall amplitude variation of +/-13.3%. The magnitude of the noise due to environmental sensitivity has a large impact on the detection capability of the cell-based system. The significant responses to temperature, pH, and osmolarity have important implications for the use of living cells in detection systems and should be considered in the design and evaluation of such systems. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.