Live mammalian cell arrays


High-content assays have the potential to drastically increase throughput in cell biology and drug discovery, but handling and culturing large libraries of cells such as primary tumor or cancer cell lines requires expensive, dedicated robotic equipment. We developed a simple yet powerful method that uses contact spotting to generate high-density nanowell arrays of live mammalian cells for the culture and interrogation of cell libraries.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: A method to array live mammalian cells.
Figure 2: Applications of the arraying method.
Figure 3: Human mesenchymal stem cell array.


  1. 1

    Yarmush, M.L. & King, K.R. Annu. Rev. Biomed. Eng. 11, 235–257 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Xu, F.F. et al. Biofabrication 3, 034101 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Taylor, D.L. Methods Mol. Biol. 356, 3–18 (2006).

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Ziauddin, J. & Sabatini, D.M. Nature 411, 107–110 (2001).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Wheeler, D.B., Carpenter, A.E. & Sabatini, D.M. Nat. Genet. 37, S25–S30 (2005).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Bailey, S.N., Sabatini, D.M. & Stockwell, B.R. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 101, 16144–16149 (2004).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Hart, T., Zhao, A., Garg, A., Bolusani, S. & Marcotte, E.M. PLoS ONE 4, e7088 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Lee, M.Y. et al. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 105, 59–63 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Yusof, A. et al. Lab Chip 11, 2447–2454 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Neve, R.M. et al. Cancer Cell 10, 515–527 (2006).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Cohen, A.A. et al. Science 322, 1511–1516 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Lutolf, M.P., Gilbert, P.M. & Blau, H.M. Nature 462, 433–441 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Fujita, S.S. et al. J. Biosci. Bioeng. 104, 5 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Jackman, R.J.R., Duffy, D.C.D., Ostuni, E.E., Willmore, N.D.N. & Whitesides, G.M.G. Anal. Chem. 70, 2280–2287 (1998).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Mei, Y. et al. Nat. Mater. 9, 768–778 (2010).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Gobaa, S. et al. Nat. Methods 8, 949–955 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    Xia, Y. & Whitesides, G. Annu. Rev. Mater. Sci. 28, 153–184 (1998).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    Ferguson, G.S., Chaudhury, M.K., Biebuyck, H.A. & Whitesides, G.M. Macromolecules 26, 5870–5875 (1993).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19

    Preibisch, S., Saalfeld, S. & Tomancak, P. Bioinformatics 25, 1463–1465 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank D. Hacker (Laboratory of Cellular Biotechnology, Institute of Bioengineering, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) for kindly providing GFP-expressing CHO and HEK cells, and V.M. Mangoua, A. Ranga and A. Negro for help with the project. The work was funded by a Marie Curie fellowship (FP7-PEOPLE-2009-IEF 252457), by a Research, Technology and Development grant: DynamiX (2008/005), a Swiss National Science Foundation Pro-Doc grant (PDFMP3 137065), a European Young Investigator grant PE002-117115/1 to M.P.L. and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.

Author information




L.M.F., K.W., M.P.L. and S.J.M. designed experiments and developed the method. L.M.F. and K.W. performed experiments. S.G. assisted with cell culturing and image processing and provided transfection reagents. L.M.F., K.W., M.P.L. and S.J.M. wrote the paper. S.J.M. conceived the idea.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sebastian J Maerkl.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Text and Figures

Supplementary Figures 1–8 (PDF 5417 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Woodruff, K., Fidalgo, L., Gobaa, S. et al. Live mammalian cell arrays. Nat Methods 10, 550–552 (2013).

Download citation

Further reading