Microfluidic technology for cellular analysis and molecular biotechnology

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Virginia Tech

Microfluidics, the manipulation of fluids at nanoliter scale, has emerged to offer an ideal platform for biological analysis of a low number of cells. The technological advances in microfluidics have allowed both forming of valves, mixers and pumps and integrating of optic and electronic components into microfluidic devices to construct complete and functional systems. In this dissertation, I present novel microfluidic techniques and their applications in cellular probes delivery, cell separation and epigenetic study. In the first part of the dissertation, electroporation is implemented on microfluidic platform to generate uniform delivery of "exposed" nanoparticle or protein into cells. In contrast to endocytosis, electroporation is a physical method to breach cell membrane and does not involve vesicle encapsulation of delivered probes, which means these probes have exposed surface in the cytosol. Such trait enables the use of delivered nanoparticle and protein for intracellular targeting of native biomolecules. Laser-induced fluorescent microscopy was used for single particle illuminating to track single molecules in cells. Microfluidic device provide integrated platform for conducting electroporation, cell culture and imaging. In the second part, microfluidic immunomagnetic cell separation is introduced. I showed two new approaches to enhance immunomagnetic cell separation based on (1) uniquely microfabricated paramagnetic patterns inside separation channels; and (2) using combination of nonmagnetic beads and magnetic beads for selection of tumor initiating cells based on two markers of opposite preference in one step. Enhancement in cell isolation (high capture efficiency or high selection purity) is experimentally observed and the former is explained by computational model. In the final part of the dissertation, microfluidic device incorporating valves and mixers for sensitive study of chromosome conformation is presented. This device has small reaction chamber minimizing sample requirement, and allows multiple steps of biological analysis in a single chip avoiding sample loss during sample transfer. Several orders of magnitude improved detection sensitivity is achieved with our microfluidics based method. I envision all novel techniques discussed in this dissertation have great potential in application of disease prognosis, diagnosis and treatment.

Microfluidics, cell electroporation, intracellular tracking, immunomagnetic cell separation, chromosome conformation capture