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Bioengineering: Cell culture on a chip

Cited research: Lab Chip doi:10.1039/c002147d (2010)

Single cells can be sorted and analysed using an assortment of microfluidic devices, which use tiny channels and pumps to move liquid around on chips. Now researchers in Canada have devised a 'lab-on-a-chip' that can grow mammalian cells and repeatedly seed new generations in fresh media (pictured).

Two advantages of microfluidic chips are that they use only a fraction of the reagents required at the macroscale and can automate and accelerate tedious manual tasks. Aaron Wheeler and his colleagues at the University of Toronto created a digital version that uses electrodes to manipulate fluids. Their device was able to replace old media with new and at the same time keep cultured cells hydrated. The chip could also harvest a subset of the cells and place them on a fresh surface, all while maintaining cell-growth rates similar to those of conventional culturing.

Credit: R. SOC. CHEM.

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Bioengineering: Cell culture on a chip. Nature 464, 1249 (2010).

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