Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Biochim Biophys Acta. 2011 Mar;1810(3):308-16. doi: 10.1016/j.bbagen.2010.04.009. Epub 2010 May 6.

Miniaturization of biological assays -- overview on microwell devices for single-cell analyses.

Author information

  • 1Division of Nanobiotechnology, School of Biotechnology,Albanova University Center, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden.



Today, cells are commonly analyzed in ensembles, i.e. thousands of cells per sample, yielding results on the average response of the cells. However, cellular heterogeneity implies the importance of studying how individual cells respond, one by one, in order to learn more about drug targeting and cellular behavior.


This review discusses general aspects on miniaturization of biological assays and in particular summarizes single-cell assays in microwell formats. A range of microwell-based chips are discussed with regard to their well characteristics, cell handling, choice of material etc. along with available detection systems for single-cell studies. History and trends in microsystem technology, various commonly used materials for device fabrication, and conventional methods for single-cell analysis are also discussed, before a closing section with a detailed example from our research in the field.


A range of miniaturized and microwell devices have shown useful for studying individual cells.


In vitro assays offering low volume sampling and rapid analysis in a high-throughput manner are of great interest in a wide range of single-cell applications. Size compatibility between a cell and micron-sized tools has encouraged the field of micro- and nanotechnologies to move into areas such as life sciences and molecular biology. To test as many compounds as possible against a given amount of patient sample requires miniaturized tools where low volume sampling is sufficient for accurate results and on which a high number of experiments per cm(2) can be performed. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Nanotechnologies - Emerging Applications in Biomedicine.

2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk