A microfluidic device enabling high-efficiency single cell trapping.

PMID 25610513


Single cell trapping increasingly serves as a key manipulation technique in single cell analysis for many cutting-edge cell studies. Due to their inherent advantages, microfluidic devices have been widely used to enable single cell immobilization. To further improve the single cell trapping efficiency, this paper reports on a passive hydrodynamic microfluidic device based on the "least flow resistance path" principle with geometry optimized in line with corresponding cell types. Different from serpentine structure, the core trapping structure of the micro-device consists of a series of concatenated T and inverse T junction pairs which function as bypassing channels and trapping constrictions. This new device enhances the single cell trapping efficiency from three aspects: (1) there is no need to deploy very long or complicated channels to adjust flow resistance, thus saving space for each trapping unit; (2) the trapping works in a "deterministic" manner, thus saving a great deal of cell samples; and (3) the compact configuration allows shorter flowing path of cells in multiple channels, thus increasing the speed and throughput of cell trapping. The mathematical model of the design was proposed and optimization of associated key geometric parameters was conducted based on computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation. As a proof demonstration, two types of PDMS microfluidic devices were fabricated to trap HeLa and HEK-293T cells with relatively significant differences in cell sizes. Experimental results showed 100% cell trapping and 90% single cell trapping over 4 × 100 trap sites for these two cell types, respectively. The space saving is estimated to be 2-fold and the cell trapping speed enhancement to be 3-fold compared to previously reported devices. This device can be used for trapping various types of cells and expanded to trap cells in the order of tens of thousands on 1-cm(2) scale area, as a promising tool to pattern large-scale single cells on specific substrates and facilitate on-chip cellular assay at the single cell level.