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Dropping cells in it
23 February 2007
Miniature drops can make ideal reaction vessels for single cell experiments, say researchers from the UK.
Scientists at the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London have used a microfluidic device to isolate single cells in aqueous microdroplets. 'Individual droplets are used to keep components of a reaction together in the same way that a cell does,' explained Andrew deMello, a member of the research team. This technology is a powerful way to perform high-throughput screening of the biological events contained within each microdroplet, he added.
Individual cells can be trapped inside miniature droplets
The team used the microfluidic device to generate sub-nanolitre-sized droplets containing cells and monitored the cells' protein expression. The number of cells per droplet could be controlled by changing the experimental conditions. Also, using a microfluidic approach meant that the droplets could be created rapidly and in a well-defined size, potentially allowing fast and reliable screening.
A system such as this will enable protein expression to be studied at the single cell level, said deMello. 'We can put individual cells in identical droplets and monitor protein formation inside a cell inside a droplet.'
'A key goal of our research is to create a new generation of experimental tools that will allow us to generate high-quality chemical and biological information on very short time scales,' explained deMello. He hopes that creating technology such as this will have a profound impact in areas such as protein evolution and molecule discovery.
Link to journal article
Quantitative detection of protein expression in single cells using droplet microfluidics
A. Huebner, M. Srisa-Art, D. Holt, C. Abell, F. Hollfelder, A. J. deMello and J. B. Edel, Chem. Commun., 2007, 1218
Also of interest
Miniaturizing chemistry and biology in microdroplets
Bernard T. Kelly, Jean-Christophe Baret, Valerie Taly and Andrew D. Griffiths, Chem. Commun., 2007, 1773