The stratum corneum (SC) is the outermost layer of the epidermis. Stacked intercellular lipid membranes found in the SC play a crucial role in regulating water transport through the skin. Despite the importance of this role of the SC lipid membranes, only a few studies have presented quantitative methods to measure the permeability of water in SC lipid membranes. In this work, we present a new method to determine the water permeability of a model SC lipid membrane using a quartz crystal microbalance (QCM). We investigate a model SC lipid membrane comprising an equimolar mixture of brain ceramide (CER), cholesterol (CHO), and palmitic acid (PA), and use QCM to determine the diffusivity (D), solubility (S.) and permeability (P) of water vapor in the model SC lipid membrane.
We describe an active polymer network in which processive molecular motors control network elasticity. This system consists of actin filaments cross-linked by filamin A (FLNa) and contracted by bipolar filaments of muscle myosin II. The myosin motors stiffen the network by more than two orders of magnitude by pulling on actin filaments anchored in the network by FLNa cross-links, thereby generating internal stress. The stiffening response closely mimics the effects of external stress applied by mechanical shear. Both internal and external stresses can drive the network into a highly nonlinear, stiffened regime. The active stress reaches values that are equivalent to an external stress of 14 Pa, consistent with a 1-pN force per myosin head. This active network mimics many mechanical properties of cells and suggests that adherent cells exert mechanical control by operating in a nonlinear regime where cell stiffness is sensitive to changes in motor activity. This design principle may be applicable to engineering novel biologically inspired, active materials that adjust their own stiffness by internal catalytic control.
Ejection of the genome from the virus, phage, is the initial step in the infection of its host bacterium. In vitro, the ejection depends sensitively on internal pressure within the virus capsid; however, the in vivo effect of internal pressure on infection of bacteria is unknown. Here, we use microfluidics to monitor individual cells and determine the temporal distribution of lysis due to infection as the capsid pressure is varied. The lysis probability decreases markedly with decreased capsid pressure. Of interest, the average lysis times remain the same but the distribution is broadened as the pressure is lowered.
The material properties of a cell determine how mechanical forces are transmitted through and sensed by that cell. Some types of cells stiffen passively under large external forces, but they can also alter their own stiffness in response to the local mechanical environment or biochemical cues. Here we show that the actin-binding protein filamin A is essential for the active stiffening of cells plated on collagen-coated substrates. This appears to be due to a diminished capability to build up large internal contractile stresses in the absence of filamin A. To show this, we compare the material properties and contractility of two human melanoma cell lines that differ in filamin A expression. The filamin A-deficient M2 cells are softer than the filamin A-replete A7 cells, and exert much smaller contractile stresses on the substratum, even though the M2 cells have similar levels of phosphorylated myosin 11 light chain and only somewhat diminished adhesion strength. In contrast to A7 cells, the stiffness and contractility of M2 cells are insensitive to either myosin-inhibiting drugs or the stiffness of the substratum. Surprisingly, however, filamin A is not required for passive stiffening under large external forces.
Networks of the biopolymer actin, cross-linked by the compliant protein filamin, form soft gels. They can, however, withstand large shear stresses due to their pronounced nonlinear elastic behavior. The nonlinear elasticity can be controlled by varying the number of cross-links per actin filament. We propose and test a model of rigid filaments decorated by multiple flexible linkers that is in quantitative agreement with experiment. This allows us to estimate loads on individual cross-links, which we find to be less than 10 pN.
We present a technique to locally and rapidly heat water drops in microfluidic devices with microwave dielectric heating. Water absorbs microwave power more efficiently than polymers, glass, and oils due to its permanent molecular dipole moment that has large dielectric loss at GHz frequencies. The relevant heat capacity of the system is a single thermally isolated picolitre-scale drop of water, enabling very fast thermal cycling. We demonstrate microwave dielectric heating in a microfluidic device that integrates a flow-focusing drop maker, drop splitters, and metal electrodes to locally deliver microwave power from an inexpensive, commercially available 3.0 GHz source and amplifier. The temperature change of the drops is measured by observing the temperature dependent fluorescence intensity of cadmium selenide nanocrystals suspended in the water drops. We demonstrate characteristic heating times as short as 15 ms to steady-state temperature changes as large as 30 degrees C above the base temperature of the microfluidic device. Many common biological and chemical applications require rapid and local control of temperature and can benefit from this new technique.
We investigate the effect of confinement on drop formation in microfluidic devices. The presence or absence of drop formation is studied for two immiscible coflowing liquids in a microfluidic channel, where the channel width is considerably larger than the channel height. We show that stability of the inner fluid thread depends on the channel geometry: when the width of the inner fluid is comparable to or larger than the channel height, hydrodynamic instabilities are suppressed, and a stable jet that does not break into drops results; otherwise, the inner fluid breaks into drops, in either a dripping or jetting regime. We present a model that accounts for the data and experimentally exploit this effect of geometric confinement to induce the breakup of a jet at a spatially defined location.
The permeability of solids has long been associated with a diffusive process involving activated mechanism as originally envisioned by Eyring. Tensile stress can affect the activation energy but definitive experiments of the diffusion rate of species through a stressed solid are lacking. Here we use core-shell (liquid core-solid shell) colloidal particles that are sensitive to osmotic pressure to follow the permeation of encapsulated probes at various stresses. We unambiguously show that the tensile stress applied on colloidal shells linearly reduces the local energy barrier for diffusion.
Superparamagnetic beads in giant unilamellar vesicles are used to facilitate magnetic manipulation, positioning, agitation and mixing of ultrasmall liquid volumes. Vesicles act as leakproof picoliter reaction vessels in an aqueous bulk solution and can be deliberately conveyed by an external magnetic field to a designated position. Upon application of an external magnetic field the beads align to form extended chains. In a rotating magnetic field chains break up into smaller fragments caused by the interplay of viscous friction and magnetic attraction. This process obeys a simple relationship and can be exploited to enhance mixing of the vesicle content and the outer solution or adjacent vesicle volumes exactly at the position of release.
We direct the motion of droplets in microfluidic channels using a surface acoustic wave device. This method allows individual drops to be directed along separate microchannel paths at high volume flow rates, which is useful for droplet sorting.
Precise patterning of metals is required for diverse microfluidic and microelectro-mechanical system (MEMS) applications ranging from the separation of proteins to the manipulation of single cells and drops of water-in-oil emulsions. Here we present a very simple, inexpensive method for fabricating micropatterned electrodes. We deposit a thin metal layer of controlled thickness using wet chemistry, thus eliminating the need for expensive equipment typically required for metal deposition. We demonstrate that the resulting deposited metal can be used to fabricate functional electrodes: The wet-deposited metal film can sustain patterning by photolithography down to micron-sized features required for MEMS and microfluidic applications, and its properties are suitable for operative electrodes used in a wide range of microfluidic applications for biological studies. (C) 2009 American Institute of Physics. [DOI: 10.1063/1.3224669]
The precise measurement of nucleation and non-equilibrium solidification are vital to fields as diverse as atmospheric science, food processing, cryopreservation and metallurgy. The emulsion technique, where the phase under study is partitioned into many droplets suspended within an immiscible continuous phase, is a powerful method for uncovering rates of nucleation and dynamics of phase changes as it isolates nucleation events to single droplets. However, averaging the behavior of many drops in a bulk emulsion leads to the loss of any drop-specific information, and drop polydispersity clouds the analysis. Here we adapt a microfluidic technique for trapping monodisperse drops in planar arrays to characterize solidification of highly supercooled aqueous solutions of glycerol. This system measured rates of nucleation between 10(-5) and 10(-2) pL(-1) s(-1), yielded an ice-water interfacial energy of 33.4 mJ m(-2) between -38 and -35 degrees C, and enabled the specific dynamics of solidification to be observed for over a hundred drops in parallel without any loss of specificity. In addition to the physical insights gained, the ability to observe the time and temperature of nucleation and subsequent growth of the solid phase in static arrays of uniform drops provides a powerful tool to discover thermodynamic protocols that generate desirable crystal structures.
We present a simple microfluidics-based technique to fabricate Janus particles using double-emulsion droplets as templates. Since each half of the particles is templated from a different immiscible fluid, this method enables the formation of particles from two materials with vastly different properties. The use of microfluidics affords excellent control over the size, morphology, and monodispersity of the particles.
All substances exhibit constant random motion at the microscopic scale. This is a direct consequence of thermal agitation, and leads to diffusion of molecules and small particles in a liquid. In addition to this nondirected motion, living cells also use active transport mechanisms, such as motor activity and polymerization forces that depend on linear biopolymers and are therefore fundamentally directed in nature. Nevertheless, it has become increasingly clear that such active processes can also drive significant random fluctuations that can appear surprisingly like thermal diffusion of particles, but faster. Here, we discuss recent progress in quantifying this behavior and identifying its origins and consequences. We suggest that it represents an important and biologically tunable mechanism for transport in living cells.
Monodisperse magnetic particles are templated from double emulsions formed using sequential flow-focus drop formation. The microfluidic drop formation allows the particles to be formed with high monodispersity and with consistently anisotropic internal structure. This structural anisotropy gives rise to magnetic anisotropy, allowing the particles to be rotated by a magnetic field.
The bacterium Bacillus subtilis produces the molecule surfactin, which is known to enhance the spreading of multicellular colonies on nutrient substrates by lowering the surface tension of the surrounding fluid, and to aid in the formation of aerial structures. Here we present experiments and a mathematical model that demonstrate how the differential accumulation rates induced by the geometry of the bacterial film give rise to surfactant waves. The spreading flux increases with increasing biofilm viscosity. Community associations are known to protect bacterial populations from environmental challenges such as predation, heat, or chemical stresses, and enable digestion of a broader range of nutritive sources. This study provides evidence of enhanced dispersal through cooperative motility, and points to nonintuitive methods for controlling the spread of biofilms.
We describe a highly efficient microfluidic fluorescence-activated droplet sorter (FADS) combining many of the advantages of microtitre-plate screening and traditional fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS). Single cells are compartmentalized in emulsion droplets, which can be sorted using dielectrophoresis in a fluorescence-activated manner (as in FACS) at rates up to 2000 droplets s(-1). To validate the system, mixtures of E. coli cells, expressing either the reporter enzyme beta-galactosidase or an inactive variant, were compartmentalized with a fluorogenic substrate and sorted at rates of similar to 300 droplets s(-1). The false positive error rate of the sorter at this throughput was < 1 in 10(4) droplets. Analysis of the sorted cells revealed that the primary limit to enrichment was the co-encapsulation of E. coli cells, not sorting errors: a theoretical model based on the Poisson distribution accurately predicted the observed enrichment values using the starting cell density (cells per droplet) and the ratio of active to inactive cells. When the cells were encapsulated at low density (similar to 1 cell for every 50 droplets), sorting was very efficient and all of the recovered cells were the active strain. In addition, single active droplets were sorted and cells were successfully recovered.
Microfluidic devices can produce highly monodisperse drops at kilohertz rates using flow-focus drop formation. We use single-layer membrane valves to control, in real time, the dimensions of the flow-focus drop makers. This allows drop size and frequency to be controlled in real time and without adjusting flow rates.
Loading drops with discrete objects, such as particles and cells, is often necessary when performing chemical and biological assays in microfluidic devices. However, random loading techniques are inefficient, yielding a majority of empty and unusable drops. We use deformable particles that are close packed to insert a controllable number of particles into every drop. This provides a simple, flexible means of efficiently encapsulating a controllable number of particles per drop.