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J Lab Autom. 2013 Dec;18(6):530-41. doi: 10.1177/2211068213504758. Epub 2013 Sep 19.

Automated reagent-dispensing system for microfluidic cell biology assays.

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1Department of Bioengineering, Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.


Microscale systems that enable measurements of oncological phenomena at the single-cell level have a great capacity to improve therapeutic strategies and diagnostics. Such measurements can reveal unprecedented insights into cellular heterogeneity and its implications into the progression and treatment of complicated cellular disease processes such as those found in cancer. We describe a novel fluid-delivery platform to interface with low-cost microfluidic chips containing arrays of microchambers. Using multiple pairs of needles to aspirate and dispense reagents, the platform enables automated coating of chambers, loading of cells, and treatment with growth media or other agents (e.g., drugs, fixatives, membrane permeabilizers, washes, stains, etc.). The chips can be quantitatively assayed using standard fluorescence-based immunocytochemistry, microscopy, and image analysis tools, to determine, for example, drug response based on differences in protein expression and/or activation of cellular targets on an individual-cell level. In general, automation of fluid and cell handling increases repeatability, eliminates human error, and enables increased throughput, especially for sophisticated, multistep assays such as multiparameter quantitative immunocytochemistry. We report the design of the automated platform and compare several aspects of its performance to manually-loaded microfluidic chips.


HTS; automated biology; high-throughput screening; lab-on-a-chip; microfluidics; robotics and instrumentation

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