04 Dec Modular microfluidic platforms for parallel cell culturing
Modularity is one of the promising aspects of microfluidics. Although microfluidics has great modularity potential to offer, the majority of the microfluidic devices designed so far involve “one size fits all” chips. This constrains the maneuverability of the microfluidic chips and increases the demand for custom fabrication of microfluidics. It is conceivable that modular fluidic circuit boards (FCB) that can simply be connected to operate several microfluidic building blocks (MFBB) to carry more complex tasks -or parallelize a single task- can attract researchers with limited knowledge of microfluidics to the field. Having this in mind, researchers from the University of Twente in the Netherlands have proposed and demonstrated plug-and-play microfluidic components.
“Our results demonstrate that MFBBs with different designs can be controlled and combined on a single FCB. Our novel modular approach to operating an automated microfluidic system for parallelized cell culture will enable greater experimental flexibility and facilitate the cooperation of different chips from different labs.”
The proposed model was employed to control three microfluidic large-scale integration (mLSI) chips with each including 64 microchambers. The same fluid circuit board was used to control a microfluidic block for microdosing. As proof of concept, the reported microfluidic platform was used for culturing HUVEC cells for multiple days. Although this microfluidic technology was mainly employed for cell culturing purposes, the idea can be extended to other microfluidic applications.
The research team took advantage of multiple materials for the fabrication of the fluidic circuit board and microfluidic building blocks as follows (refer to the above figure for the images):
– Dosing microfluidic building made from PMMA
– Clamps made from PMMA
– Interconnection block made from PMMA
– Microfluidic large scale integration chip made from PDMS. mLSI are integrated microfluidic chips containing multiple microvalves which were made as a microfluidic counterpart of integrated circuits (IC). In this case, the mLSI chips contain 64 independently accessible microchambers for parallelized cell culture and are able to screen up to 64 conditions.
– Fluidic circuit board made from polystyrene and styrene ethylene butylene styrene (SEBS)
The fluidic circuit board housed the microfluidic building blocks and was developed to both parallelize the process and sequentially control the operation of each microfluidic device. Therefore, instead of directly attaching the tubings to each microfluidic building block, the tubes could easily connect to the fluidic circuit board that controls the parallel operation through its valves and branched microchannels. The assembled microfluidic platform can be seen below.
“The described platform consisting of the FCB and MFBBs is, to the best of our knowledge, the first modular plug-and-play system for mLSI chips. By integrating an MFBB enabler into the FCB, we can operate up to three of the same MFBBs in parallel or operate and combine different MFBBs with different operation protocols.”, the authors concluded.
Pouriya is a microfluidic production engineer at uFluidix. He received his B.Sc. and M.A.Sc. both in Mechanical Engineering from Isfahan University of Technology and York University, respectively. During his master's studies, he had the chance to learn the foundations of microfluidic technology at ACUTE Lab where he focused on designing microfluidic platforms for cell washing and isolation. Upon graduation, he joined uFluidix to even further enjoy designing, manufacturing, and experimenting with microfluidic chips. In his free time, you might find him reading a psychology/philosophy/fantasy book while refilling his coffee every half an hour. Is there a must-read book in your mind, do not hesitate to hit him up with your to-read list.