Cell metabolism is critical in regulating normal cell functions to maintain energy homeostasis. In order to monitor cell metabolism, the oxygen consumption rate (OCR) of cells has been characterized as an important factor. In conventional cell analysis, the cells are characterized in bulk due to technical limitations. However, the heterogeneity between the cells cannot be identified. Therefore, single-cell analysis has been proposed to reveal cellular functions and their heterogeneity. In this research, an approach integrating a microfluidic device and widefield frequency domain fluorescence imaging lifetime microscopy (FD-FLIM) for single-cell OCR characterization in an efficient manner is developed. The microfluidic device provides an efficient platform to trap and isolate single cells in microwells with the buffer saline containing an oxygen-sensitive phosphorescent dye. The oxygen tension variation within the microwells can be efficiently estimated by measuring the fluorescence lifetime change using the FD-FLIM, and the OCR values of the single cells can then be calculated. In the experiments, breast cancer (MCF-7) cells are exploited for the OCR measurement. The results demonstrate the functionality of the developed approach and show the heterogeneity among the cells. The developed approach possesses great potential to advance cellular metabolism studies with single-cell resolution.

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