Distributing single cells using gravity
Ever since HeLa cells were mass produced to help medical researchers test the safety and efficacy of the polio vaccine, cell biology has become more and more about scale and speed. Ideally, researchers want to take control of single cells, direct them to individual experiments, and observe their viability (among other things). Given enough individual experiments, this provides for the maximum of efficiency—the minimum number of cells with the maximum number of experimental variations.
But efficient cell sorting is actually a rather tedious process, either involving laborious serial dilution done by hand or expensive instrumentation. In many cases, machines are overkill because they can sort cells based on type, whereas one often wants only to take an initial population and split it evenly for analysis or further experimentation. A recent Applied Physics Letters presents just the microfluidic device to meet this need.
The goal of the University of Michigan researchers was to develop a gravity-driven device that sequentially guided cells along different paths so that, eventually, the cells end up in different microwells.