A microfluidic approach is reported for the high-throughput, continuous production of giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) using water-in-oil-in-water double emulsion drops as templates. Importantly, these emulsion drops have ultrathin shells; this minimizes the amount of residual solvent that remains trapped within the GUV membrane, overcoming a major limitation of typical microfluidic approaches for GUV fabrication. This approach enables the formation of microdomains, characterized by different lipid compositions and structures within the GUV membranes. This work therefore demonstrates a straightforward and versatile approach to GUV fabrication with precise control over the GUV size, lipid composition and the formation of microdomains within the GUV membrane.
We describe how droplet microfluidics can be used to fabricate solid-shelled microcapsules having precisely controlled release behavior. Glass capillary devices enable the production of monodisperse double emulsion drops, which can then be used as templates for microcapsule formation. The exquisite control afforded by microfluidics can be used to tune the compositions and geometrical characteristics of the microcapsules with exceptional precision. We review the use of this approach to fabricate microcapsules that only release their contents when exposed to a specific stimulus – such as a change in temperature, exposure to light, a change in the chemical environment, or an external stress – only after a prescribed time delay, and at a prescribed rate.
A reliable microfluidic platform for the generation of stable and monodisperse multistage drug delivery systems is reported. A glass-capillary flow-focusing droplet generation device was used to encapsulate thermally hydrocarbonized porous silicon (PSi) microparticles into the aqueous cores of double emulsion drops, yielding the formation of a multistage PSi-lipid vesicle. This composite system enables a large loading capacity for hydrophobic drugs.
Many types of bacteria form colonies that grow into physically robust and strongly adhesiveaggregates known as biofilms. A distinguishing characteristic of bacterial biofilms is an extracellular polymeric substance (EPS) matrix that encases the cells and provides physical integrity to the colony. The EPS matrix consists of a large amount of polysaccharide, as well as protein filaments, DNA and degraded cellular materials. The genetic pathways that control the transformation of a colony into a biofilm have been widely studied, and yield a spatiotemporal heterogeneity in EPS production. Spatial gradients in metabolites parallel this heterogeneity in EPS, but nutrient concentration as an underlying physiological initiator of EPS production has not been explored. Here, we study the role of nutrient depletion in EPS production in Bacillus subtilis biofilms. By monitoring simultaneously biofilm size and matrix production, we find that EPS production increases at a critical colony thickness that depends on the initial amount of carbon sources in the medium. Through studies of individual cells in liquid culture we find that EPS production can be triggered at the single-cell level by reducing nutrient concentration. To connect the single-cell assays with conditions in the biofilm, we calculate carbon concentration with a model for the reaction and diffusion of nutrients in the biofilm. This model predicts the relationship between the initial concentration of carbon and the thickness of the colony at the point of internal nutrient deprivation.
Cell-generated mechanical forces play a critical role during tissue morphogenesis and organ formation in the embryo. Little is known about how these forces shape embryonic organs, mainly because it has not been possible to measure cellular forces within developing three-dimensional (3D) tissues in vivo. We present a method to quantify cell-generated mechanical stresses exerted locally within living embryonic tissues, using fluorescent, cell-sized oil microdroplets with defined mechanical properties and coated with adhesion receptor ligands. After a droplet is introduced between cells in a tissue, local stresses are determined from droplet shape deformations, measured using fluorescence microscopy and computerized image analysis. Using this method, we quantified the anisotropic stresses generated by mammary epithelial cells cultured within 3D aggregates, and we confirmed that these stresses (3.4 nN [mu]m-2) are dependent on myosin II activity and are more than twofold larger than stresses generated by cells of embryonic tooth mesenchyme, either within cultured aggregates or in developing whole mouse mandibles.
Coalescence of two kinds of pre-processed droplets is necessary to perform chemical and biological assays in droplet-based microfluidics. However, a robust technique to accomplish this does not exist. Here we present a microfluidic device to synchronize the reinjection of two different kinds of droplets and coalesce them, using hydrostatic pressure in conjunction with a conventional syringe pump. We use a device consisting of two opposing T-junctions for reinjecting two kinds of droplets and control the flows of the droplets by applying gravity-driven hydrostatic pressure. The hydrostatic-pressure operation facilitates balancing the droplet reinjection rates and allows us to synchronize the reinjection. Furthermore, we present a simple but robust module to coalesce two droplets that sequentially come into the module, regardless of their arrival times. These re-injection and coalescence techniques might be used in lab-on-chip applications requiring droplets with controlled numbers of solid materials, which can be made by coalescing two pre-processed droplets that are formed and sorted in devices.
We present a microfluidic device that enables high throughput production of relatively monodisperse emulsion drops while controlling the average size. The device consists of a two-dimensional array of regularly-spaced posts. Large drops of a highly polydisperse crude emulsion are input into the device and are successively split by the posts, ultimately yielding a finer emulsion consisting of smaller, and much more monodisperse drops. The size distribution of the resultant emulsion depends only weakly on the viscosities of the input fluids and allows fluids of very high viscosities to be used. The average size and polydispersity of the drops depend strongly on the device geometry enabling both control and optimization. We use this device to produce drops of a highly viscous monomer solution and subsequently solidify them into polymeric microparticles. The production rate of these devices is similar to that achieved by membrane emulsification techniques, yet the control over the drop size is superior; thus these post-array microfluidic devices are potentially useful for industrial applications.