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Curr Opin Chem Biol. 2006 Jun;10(3):226-31. Epub 2006 May 3.

Microfluidic cartridges preloaded with nanoliter plugs of reagents: an alternative to 96-well plates for screening.

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Department of Chemistry and Institute for Biophysical Dynamics, The University of Chicago, 5735 South Ellis Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.


In traditional screening with 96-well plates, microliters of substrates are consumed for each reaction. Further miniaturization is limited by the special equipment and techniques required to dispense nanoliter volumes of fluid. Plug-based microfluidics confines reagents in nanoliter plugs (droplets surrounded by fluorinated carrier fluid), and uses simple pumps to control the flow of plugs. By using cartridges pre-loaded with nanoliter plugs of reagents, only two pumps and a merging junction are needed to set up a screen. Screening with preloaded cartridges uses only nanoliters of substrate per reaction, and requires no microfabrication. The low cost and simplicity of this method has the potential of replacing 96-well and other multi-well plates, and has been applied to enzymatic assays, protein crystallization and optimization of organic reactions.

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