Microfluidic single-cell manipulation and analysis : methods and applications

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Original languageEnglish
Article number104
Journal / PublicationMicromachines
Issue number2
Online published1 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019



In a forest of a hundred thousand trees, no two leaves are alike. Similarly, no two cells in a genetically identical group are the same. This heterogeneity at the single-cell level has been recognized to be vital for the correct interpretation of diagnostic and therapeutic results of diseases, but has been masked for a long time by studying average responses from a population. To comprehensively understand cell heterogeneity, diverse manipulation and comprehensive analysis of cells at the single-cell level are demanded. However, using traditional biological tools, such as petri-dishes and well-plates, is technically challengeable for manipulating and analyzing single-cells with small size and low concentration of target biomolecules. With the development of microfluidics, which is a technology of manipulating and controlling fluids in the range of micro- to pico-liters in networks of channels with dimensions from tens to hundreds of microns, single-cell study has been blooming for almost two decades. Comparing to conventional petri-dish or well-plate experiments, microfluidic single-cell analysis offers advantages of higher throughput, smaller sample volume, automatic sample processing, and lower contamination risk, etc., which made microfluidics an ideal technology for conducting statically meaningful single-cell research. In this review, we will summarize the advances of microfluidics for single-cell manipulation and analysis from the aspects of methods and applications. First, various methods, such as hydrodynamic and electrical approaches, for microfluidic single-cell manipulation will be summarized. Second, single-cell analysis ranging from cellular to genetic level by using microfluidic technology is summarized. Last, we will also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of various microfluidic methods for single-cell manipulation, and then outlook the trend of microfluidic single-cell analysis.

Research Area(s)

  • Microfluidics, Single-cell analysis, Single-cell manipulation

Bibliographic Note

The publication is also published in Microfluidics for Cells and Other Organisms.

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