Written by Jackie Howard Wednesday, 03 September 2008 13:33
Integrated Systems for Chemical and Biological Experiments in Microfludic Microdroplets
Viktor Stein, Luis Olguin, Yolanda Schärli, Ansgar Hübner, Graeme Whyte, Jung-uk Shim, Fabienne Courtois, Hansjörg Hufnagel, Dan Bratton, Min Yang, Rob Wooton, Chris Abell, Andrew de Mello, Wilhelm Huck, Josh Edel and and Florian Hollfelder
The concept of in vitro compartmentalisation (IVC) in microfluidic microdroplets provides an experimental format for biological experimentation in which individual reactions are partitioned into independent droplet water-in-oil emulsion droplet reactors. The high-throughput that his format affords (potentially on the order of 108 - 1010) combined with the possibility of analysing the content of these compartments with high accuracy and managing their contents with a high level of control, will enable massively multiplexed assays to be conducted. This paper will report progress towards such integrated systems using recent examples from a RCUK Basic Technology project based in Cambridge University and Imperial College and an EU-wide collaboration.
We can now minaturise standard biological operations in integrated devices at the picolitre scale. Amongst them are single cell-based enzyme assays, single cell in vivo protein expression, cell-free in vitro protein expression or continuous thermal PCR from single DNA templates. In each case the quantitative readout (e.g. time-resolved kinetic measurements, efficiency of the PCR reaction) is comparable with assays conducted at the normal laboratory scale using macroscopic equipment, suggesting that applications in areas such as proteomics, directed evolution or combinatorial chemistry and biology may soon be feasible.