Academic Papers

A Microfluidic Device for Dry Sample Preservation in Remote Settings

Stefano Begolo, Feng Shen and Rustem F. Ismagilov

Lab Chip, 2013,13, 4331-4342


This paper describes a microfluidic device for dry preservation of biological specimens at room temperature that incorporates chemical stabilization matrices. Long-term stabilization of samples is crucial for remote medical analysis, biosurveillance, and archiving, but the current paradigm for transporting remotely obtained samples relies on the costly “cold chain” to preserve analytes within biospecimens. We propose an alternative approach that involves the use of microfluidics to preserve samples in the dry state with stabilization matrices, developed by others, that are based on self-preservation chemistries found in nature. We describe a SlipChip-based device that allows minimally trained users to preserve samples with the three simple steps of placing a sample at an inlet, closing a lid, and slipping one layer of the device. The device fills automatically, and a pre-loaded desiccant dries the samples. Later, specimens can be rehydrated and recovered for analysis in a laboratory. This device is portable, compact, and self-contained, so it can be transported and operated by untrained users even in limited-resource settings. Features such as dead-end and sequential filling, combined with a “pumping lid” mechanism, enable precise quantification of the original sample’s volume while avoiding overfilling. In addition, we demonstrated that the device can be integrated with a plasma filtration module, and we validated device operations and capabilities by testing the stability of purified RNA solutions. These features and the modularity of this platform (which facilitates integration and simplifies operation) would be applicable to other microfluidic devices beyond this application. We envision that as the field of stabilization matrices develops, microfluidic devices will be useful for cost-effectively facilitating remote analysis and biosurveillance while also opening new opportunities for diagnostics, drug development, and other medical fields.

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Live Mammalian Cell Arrays

Kristina Woodruff, Luis M Fidalgo, Samy Gobaa, Matthias P Lutolf, Sebastian J Maerkl,

Nature Methods 10, 550–552 (2013)


 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.

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Automated Reagent-Dispensing System for Microfluidic Cell Biology Assays

Jimmy Ly, Michael Masterman-Smith, Ravichandran Ramakrishnan, Jing Sun, Brent, Kokubun, R. Michael van Dam.

Journal of Laboratory Automation, 2013, 18,6, 530-541


Microscale systems that enable measurements of oncological phenomena at the single-cell level have a great capacity to improve therapeutic strategies and diagnostics. Such measurements can reveal unprecedented insights into cellular heterogeneity and its implications into the progression and treatment of complicated cellular disease processes such as those found in cancer. We describe a novel fluid-delivery platform to interface with low-cost microfluidic chips containing arrays of microchambers. Using multiple pairs of needles to aspirate and dispense reagents, the platform enables automated coating of chambers, loading of cells, and treatment with growth media or other agents (e.g., drugs, fixatives, membrane permeabilizers, washes, stains, etc.). The chips can be quantitatively assayed using standard fluorescence-based immunocytochemistry, microscopy, and image analysis tools, to determine, for example, drug response based on differences in protein expression and/or activation of cellular targets on an individual-cell level. In general, automation of fluid and cell handling increases repeatability, eliminates human error, and enables increased throughput, especially for sophisticated, multistep assays such as multiparameter quantitative immunocytochemistry. We report the design of the automated platform and compare several aspects of its performance to manually-loaded microfluidic chips.

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Microfluidic Device for Mechanical Dissociation of Cancer Cell Aggregates into Single Cells.

Xiaolong Qiu, Janice De Jesus, Marissa Pennell, Marco Troiani and Jered B. Haun

Lab Chip, 2015,15, 339-350


Tumors tissues house a diverse array of cell types, requiring powerful cell-based analysis methods to characterize different cell subtypes. Tumor tissue is dissociated into single cells by treatment with proteolytic enzymes, followed by mechanical disruption using vortexing or pipetting. These procedures can be incomplete and require significant time, and the latter mechanical treatments are poorly defined and controlled. Here, we present a novel microfluidic device to improve mechanical dissociation of digested tissue and cell aggregates into single cells. The device design includes a network of branching channels that range in size from millimeters down to hundreds of microns. The channels also contain flow constrictions that generate well-defined regions of high shear force, which we refer to as “hydrodynamic micro-scalpels,” to progressively disaggregate tissue fragments and clusters into single cells. We show using in vitro cancer cell models that the microfluidic device significantly enhances cell recovery in comparison to mechanical disruption by pipetting and vortexing digestion with trypsin or incubation with EDTA. Notably, the device enabled superior results to be obtained after shorter proteolytic digestion times, resulting in fully viable cells in less than ten minutes. The device could also be operated under enzyme-free conditions that could better maintain expression of certain surface markers. The microfluidic format is advantageous because it enables application of well-defined mechanical forces and rapid processing times. Furthermore, it may be possible to directly integrate downstream processing and detection operations to create integrated cell-based analysis platforms. The enhanced capabilities enabled by our novel device may help promote applications of single cell detection and purification techniques to tumor tissue specimens, advancing the current understanding of cancer biology and enabling molecular diagnostics in clinical settings.

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