Label-free evaluation and monitoring of living cell conditions or functions by means of chemical and/or physical sensors in a real-time manner are increasingly desired in the field of basic research of cells and clinical diagnosis. In order to perform multi-parametric analysis of living cells on a chip, we here developed a surface plasmon resonance (SPR) imaging (SPRI)-impedance sensor that can detect both refractive index (RI) and impedance changes on a sensor chip with comb-shaped electrodes. We then investigated the potential of the sensor for label-free and real-time analysis of living cell reactions in response to stimuli. We cultured rat basophilic leukemia (RBL)-2H3 cells on the sensor chip, which was a glass slide coated with comb-shaped electrodes, and detected activation of RBL-2H3 cells, such as degranulation and morphological changes, in response to a dinitro-phenol-conjugated human serum albumin (DNP-HSA) antigen. Moreover, impedance analysis revealed that the changes of impedance derived from RBL-2H3 cell activation appeared in the range of 1 kHz–1 MHz. Furthermore, we monitored living cell-derived RI and impedance changes simultaneously on a sensor chip using the SPRI-impedance sensor. Thus, we developed a new technique to monitor both impedance and RI derived from living cells by using a comb-shaped electrode sensor chip. This technique may enable us to clarify complex living cell functions which affect the RI and impedance and apply this to medical applications, such as accurate clinical diagnosis of type I allergy.
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