Chemotactic cell migration plays a crucial role in physiological and pathophysiological processes. In tissues, cells can migrate not only through extracellular matrix (ECM), but also along stromal cell surfaces via membrane-bound receptor–ligand interactions to fulfill critical functions. However, there remains a lack of models recapitulating chemotactic migration mediated through membrane-bound interactions. Here, using micro-milling, we engineered a multichannel diffusion device that incorporates a chemoattractant gradient and a supported lipid bilayer (SLB) tethered with membrane-bound factors that mimics stromal cell membranes. The chemoattractant channels are separated by hydrogel barriers from SLB in the cell loading channel, which enable precise control of timing and profile of the chemokine gradients applied on cells interacting with SLB. The hydrogel barriers are formed in pillar-free channels through a liquid pinning process, which eliminates complex cleanroom-based fabrications and distortion of chemoattractant gradient by pillars in typical microfluidic hydrogel barrier designs. As a proof-of-concept, we formed an SLB tethered with ICAM-1, and demonstrated its lateral mobility and different migratory behavior of Jurkat T cells on it from those on immobilized ICAM-1, under a gradient of chemokine CXCL12. Our platform can thus be widely used to investigate membrane-bound chemotaxis such as in cancer, immune, and stem cells.
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