Design of a microfluidic device with a non-traditional flow profile for on-chip damage to zebrafish sensory cells

Hyuck Jin Kwon, Yuhao Xu, Stephen A. Solovitz, Wei Xue, Alexander G. Dimitrov, Allison B. Coffin, Jie Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Hearing loss affects millions of people worldwide and often results from the death of the sensory hair cells in the inner ear, and exposure to intense noise is one of the leading causes of hair cell damage. Recently, the zebrafish lateral line system has emerged as a powerful in vivo model for real-time studies of hair cell damage and protection. In this research, we designed a microfluidic device for inducing noise damage in hair cells of the zebrafish lateral line. As the first step, a 3D computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation was utilized to predict the flow pattern inside the device. An ideal flow pattern for our application should feature higher velocity near the sidewalls to over-stimulate the externally located hair cells, and minimum flow in the middle of the channel to protect the fish from high pressure on the head. Flow induced from ordinary channel geometry with a single inlet/outlet pair would not work because the parabolic velocity profile features the maximum flow speed in the middle of the channel. In order to achieve the desired flow pattern, sidewall inlet/outlet pairs were used to suppress the growth of boundary layers. CFD simulation was used to design parameters such as the dimensions of the microfluidic channel and the angle of the inlets and outlets. It was found that in the case of an empty 2.0 mm wide channel with the inlet/outlet pairs set to 45°, the flow velocity at the side of the channel would be 6.7 times faster than the velocity in the middle, approaching the optimal flow characteristics. In the case of a fish-loaded channel, simulation shows that a 1.0 mm wide channel with a 60° inlet/outlet angle creates the lowest pressure (0.3 Pa) on the fish head while maintaining a reasonably strong shear stress (1.9 Pa) on the lateral line hair cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number017001
JournalJournal of Micromechanics and Microengineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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