Droplet microfluidics for single cell and nucleic acid analysis

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Abstract: Droplet microfluidics is an emerging technology for analysis of single cells and biomolecules at high throughput. The controlled encapsulation of particles along with the surrounding microenvironment in discrete droplets, which acts as miniaturized reaction vessels, allows millions of particles to be screened in parallel. By utilizing the unit operations developed to generate, manipulate and analyze droplets, this technology platform has been used to miniaturize a wide range of complex biological assays including, but not limited to, directed evolution, rare cell detection, single cell transcriptomics, rare mutation detection and drug screening.The aim of this thesis is to develop droplet microfluidics based methods for analysis of single cells and nucleic acids. In Paper I, a method for time-series analysis of mammalian cells, using automated fluorescence microscopy and image analysis technique is presented. The cell-containing droplets were trapped on-chip and imaged continuously to assess the viability of hundreds of isolated individual cells over time. This method can be used for studying the dynamic behavior of cells. In Paper II, the influence of droplet size on cell division and viability of mammalian cell factories during cultivation in droplets is presented. The ability to achieve continuous cell division in droplets will enable development of mammalian cell factory screening assays in droplets. In Paper III, a workflow for detecting the outcome of droplet PCR assay using fluorescently color-coded beads is presented. This workflow was used to detect the presence of DNA biomarkers associated with poultry pathogens in a sample. The use of color-coded detection beads will help to improve the scalability of the detection panel, to detect multiple targets in a sample. In Paper IV, a novel unit operation for label-free enrichment of particles in droplets using acoustophoresis is presented. This technique will be useful for developing droplet-based assays that require label-free enrichment of cells/particles and removal of droplet content. In general, droplet microfluidics has proven to be a versatile tool for biological analysis. In the years to come, droplet microfluidics could potentially be used to improve clinical diagnostics and bio-based production processes.