Elucidating the mechanism governing cell rotation under DEP using the volumetric polarization and integration method

Yu Zhao, Jozef Brcka, Jacques Faguet, Guigen Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Cell rotation can be achieved by utilizing rotating electric fields through which torques are generated due to phase difference between the dipole moment of cells and the external electric field. While reports of cell rotation under non-rotating electrical fields, such as dielectrophoresis (DEP), are abound, the underlying mechanism is not fully understood. Because of this, contradicting arguments remain regarding if a single cell can rotate under conventional DEP. What’s more, the current prevailing DEP theory is not adequate for identifying the cause for such disagreements. In this work we applied our recently developed Volumetric Polarization and Integration (VPI) method to investigate the possible causes for cell rotation under conventional DEP. Three-dimensional (3D) computer models dealing with a cell in a DEP environment were developed to quantify the force and torque imparted on the cell by the external DEP field using COMSOL Multiphysics software. Modeling results suggest that eccentric inclusions with low conductivity inside the cell will generate torques (either in clockwise or counter-clockwise directions) sufficient to cause cell rotation under DEP. For validation of modeling predictions, experiments with rat adipose stem cells containing large lipid droplets were conducted. Good agreement between our modeling and experimental results suggests that the VPI method is powerful in elucidating the underlying mechanisms governing the complicated DEP phenomena.

Original languageEnglish
Article number81
JournalBiomedical Microdevices
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • COMSOL modeling
  • Cell rotation
  • Dielectrophoresis (DEP)
  • Eccentric inclusion
  • Volumetric polarization and integration (VPI)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


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