Microfluidic devices have significantly enhanced the addressability of complex questions via process miniaturization, technological integration, and parallelized scalability. Importantly, microfluidic devices enable precise and dynamic manipulation of the local environment with high resolution non-invasive sampling.
Natural biological environments are vastly more dynamic than common laboratory conditions. For instance, cells in the “wild” are commonly exposed to a myriad stimuli: changes in nutrients, radiative cycling, and mechanical forces. Yet, in the lab these complex external forces are either minimized or eliminated altogether because they are either unfeasible to implement or too difficult to robustly control. It is here that the economies of scale and highly integrated nature of microfluidic devices are well suited.
Our microfluidic platform is being developed to integrate three primary components: a media multiplexer and combinatorial mixer, a cellular growth/imaging chamber array, and an optional assay processor for readouts not readily accessible to fluorescent tagging. Coupled to fast-degrading GFP reporters we are beginning to explore the dynamics of gene expression in Halobacterium at single-cell resolutions under complex environmental stimuli.