Microfluidics in Life Science
In Life Science, microfluidics provides the ability to control cellular microenvironments with high spatiotemporal precision. It also presents cells with mechanical and biochemical signals in a more physiologically relevant context.
A new level of technology
Microscopy and cell biology
Flow cells or microfluidic chips combined with a fluid perfusion system and microscopy are compatible with a variety of applications, including DNA and RNA hybridization, drug combination and long-term perfusion, and immunostaining.
Cell culture and Organ-on-a-chip
This area is an ideal microenvironment to study molecular and cellular-scale activities that underlie human organ function as well as identify new therapeutic targets in vitro.
Microfluidic dPCR offers a new level of insight compared to quantitative PCR (qPCR). Droplet-based microfluidics is an excellent solution for partitioning a sample.
Want to learn more about the capabilities of microfluidics in life science? See Fluigent’s CEO France Hamber discuss microfluidic disruptive discoveries
Microfluidics in biology and medicine
Microfluidics has emerged as a transformative technology, revolutionizing various areas of research, diagnostics, and therapeutics. By enabling precise manipulation and control of small volumes of fluids at the microscale level, microfluidic devices, also known as lab-on-a-chip, have opened up new possibilities in the study of cells, diagnostics, DNA sequencing, and drug discovery. In biology, microfluidics allows researchers to analyze and manipulate individual cells, paving the way for advancements in cell biology and single-cell genomics. In medicine, microfluidic platforms offer portable, rapid, and cost-effective point-of-care diagnostics, bringing healthcare to resource-limited settings, e.g. by using organ-on-chip platforms.
As an example, microfluidics in life science has accelerated RNA sequencing technologies, enabling high-throughput sequencing at reduced costs. In the application note linked below, Fluigent presents the Drop-Seq method, a high-throughput method that enables sequencing of the mRNA from a large number of cells. The Drop-Seq method pairs barcoded beads and cells in droplets, capturing cell-specific RNA on beads. Tagged cDNA is generated, amplified, sequenced, and bioinformatically analyzed. Barcode sequences identify cells, and transcript sequences are mapped to a reference genome, forming cell-specific gene-expression profiles.
Microfluidic tools for cell biological research
Cellular biology plays a crucial role in the field of medical science and drives innovation. A comprehensive understanding of how cells react during infections and pathological conditions is instrumental in the discovery of novel disease treatments. Essential to the analysis and visualization of cellular behavior are microscopy and imaging technologies. In the realm of cell biology, the integration of precise fluid flow control within microfluidic systems has revolutionized the study of cells by providing an automated platform that mimics their natural environment.
Microfluidics facilitates the delivery of fluids at controlled flow rates, minimizing errors. It finds applications in diverse areas such as RNA and DNA hybridization, enabling real-time imaging of gene expression in living cells. Microfluidics also contributes to drug combination therapies, long-term perfusion studies, and improved immunostaining protocols. By replacing traditional methods, microfluidics in life science offers several advantages including enhanced control, sensitivity, throughput, cost-effectiveness, and reduced material consumption. Its potential impact extends to cancer diagnosis, enhancing our understanding of cancer biology, and driving advancements in medical research.
Advantages of pressure-based flow controllers for life science experiments
Pressure-based flow controllers offer several advantages over peristaltic pumps and syringe pumps in microfluidics for life science applications. Firstly, it provides precise and accurate control of flow rates, allowing for better reproducibility and control of experimental conditions. Secondly, the pressure-based system is less prone to pulsations and variations in flow, resulting in more stable and consistent flow profiles. Additionally, using pressure-based controllers in life sciences allows researchers to work with much smaller volumes, which is useful when the samples to be studied are expensive or rare.
Finally, using pumps like the Flow EZ allows for use of various accessories such as reservoir mixers or block heaters, which can reproduce the physiological conditions of cells, for example, and keep the sample homogeneous, which is much more complex, if not impossible, with other types of pumps.
Organ-on-chip studies for life science
Organs-on-chips (OoC) are microdevices that mimic organ functions. They use microfluidics and 3D culture to replicate human physiology. OoC models show that dynamic culture conditions affect system maturation. They aim to recreate tissue barriers, parenchymal tissues, and inter-organ interactions. An OoC system includes a microfluidic chip with cell culture chambers, fluid channels, and optional components like membranes or gels. Biosensors and bio-actuators may be added. This technology is very useful for microfluidics in life science applications, as it offers more realistic lab modeling of organs and tissues. To that end, Fluigent has created Omi, a versatile and automated platform for organ-on-chip studies.
Omi allows for long-term cell culture with controlled shear stress conditions through continuous flow. It offers customizable and automated protocols for various functions, such as perfusion, recirculation, sampling and injection. This platform caters to the requirements of both novice cell culture researchers and experienced organ-on-chip researchers, addressing their needs for automation and reproducibility.
Microfluidic in Life Science Case Study
Hans-Knöll-Institut, New Antibiotics, Cultivation in Droplets
This project focuses on how Fluigent’s customers use microfluidics to achieve outstanding results in their technology experiments.
Our speakers are Prof. Dr. Miriam Agler-Rosenbaum (Head of Bio Pilot Plant Department), Dr. Sundar Hengoju, Dr. Dede Man from the Bio Pilot Plant Department of the Leibniz Institut for Natural Products Research and Infection Biology (Hans Knöll Institute).
- How are they trying to find new antibiotics?
- Why is this important for infection biology?
- How do they research natural products?
- What are these products exactly?
- How does microfluidics allow them to cultivate microbes in droplets?
- How does the technology increase their efficiency millions of times over?
- In which cases are pressure pumps better than syringe pumps?
- How can microfluidic droplets be stabilized?
Watch this episode to find out – and note that this is just one story told. There are many possible applications for microfluidics.
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Looking for another market?
From the life sciences to the food industry, many applications require the use of fluids driven at flow rates from nanoliters to milliliters per minute. At such low flows, the success of these applications strongly depends on the level of control and automation of the fluidic operations.
These applications require flow control systems that are adapted for ensuring their success.
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