The perfusion microscope was developed for the study of the osmotic response of cells. In this microscope, the cells are immobilized in a transparent chamber mounted on the stage and exposed to a variety of milieus by perfusing the chamber with solutions of different concentrations. The concentration of the supplied solution is controlled using two variable-speed syringe pumps, which supply an isotonic solution and a hypertonic solution. Before using this system to characterize the osmotic response of cells, the change in the concentration of NaCl solution flowing through the chamber is examined quantitatively using a laser interferometer and an image processing technique. The NaCl concentration is increased from an isotonic condition to a hypertonic condition abruptly or gradually at a given constant rate, and decreased from a hypertonic condition to an isotonic condition. It is confirmed that the concentration is nearly uniform in the cross direction at the middle of the chamber, and the change in the NaCl concentration is reproducible. The average, rate of increase or decrease in the measured concentration agrees fairly well with the given rate when the concentration is changed gradually at a constant rate. The rate of the abrupt change is also determined to be the highest limit achieved by the present method. As the first application of using the perfusion microscope for biological studies, the volume change of cells after exposure to a hypertonic solution is measured. Then, the hydraulic conductivity of the cell membrane is determined from the comparison of the volume change between the experiment and the theoretical estimation for the measured change in the NaCl concentration of the perfused solution.
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