The Bridge Between Microfluidics and Benchtop Biology
Welcome to the 2018 BostonU HW Project: TERRAMicrofluidics allows for the manipulation of small amounts of fluids on the scale of microliters and nanoliters. The application of microfluidics in synthetic biology research would enable scientists to design and implement synthetic biology systems more efficiently and with greater reproducibility.
While microfluidics is not new to the field of synthetic biology, it is not currently widely used or accessible to many benchtop biologists. The current “lab on a chip” microfluidic devices are highly specialized to each experiment and expensive to manufacture. In order to analyze the results of the experiments on microfluidic chips, many designs embed sensors directly into the chip. Many of these sensors, however, already exist as traditional analytical devices, such as plate readers. These devices could be used for analysis of microfluidic outputs if the outputs were dispensed selectively into a compatible vessel, such as a microtiter plate. If this were possible, synthetic biologists would be able to incorporate microfluidic chips to streamline their experiments without sinking time and money to design and fabricate highly specialized chips.
Our project, TERRA, aims to create an automated system that bridges benchtop biology and microfluidics. Terra is comprised of three main components:
- Microfluidics: A microfluidic chip designed to execute a desired biological experiment.
- Hardware: A low-cost, accessible active XY-plane selectively dispenses the output of the microfluidic chip to a 96-well plate and automated control syringes.
- Software: A software interface that will allow the user to detail the parameters of the experiment run on the chip; the specific location per output on the 96-well plate; and the amount of each output dispensed.