The aim of our project is to build a high-throughput microfluidic system for cell communication research. We separate our aim into two parts, one is our Science and the other is our Technology.
For the Science part, we are motivated by a scientific question on what key genes are essential for Wnt secretion pathway, which is a type of cell communication. Till now, scientists know very little about it.
We achieved to build genetical engineered cell lines in Wnt signaling pathway. One is donor cell lines, which is Wnt-secreting cell line and the other is specific reporter cell line, which is Wnt-responding cell line.
For Wnt-secreting cell lines, we confirmed the knockout effects of our target genes which play an important role in Wnt secretion. In future, we would like to knockout genes one in a single cells as genetic screening and search for the potential key genes.
For the Technology part, we are motivated by a technical question on how to speed up the research for cell communication, because the traditional coculture way is time-consuming.
We achieved to develop two types of high-throughput systems: Double emulsion system and Micro-well system respectively.
For Double emulsion system, we assembled components of each commercial parts from Dolomite Corporation. We improved a protocol of encapsulation of two cell in one microdroplets. In our results, one million droplets were generated within 4 minutes and the encapsulation rate of two-cell droplets is quite high ranging from 1%-2%.
For Micro-well system, we design our own microfluidic chip for capturing two single cells for coculture. One fabricated micro-well plate has about 3000 micro-wells with a 70% capture rate which is quite high. It is flexible to adjust the physical structure of the microfluidic chip to fix requirements of different cell lines.
Our donor and reporter cell lines can be encapsulated or capture in a microdroplet and micro-well to have the signal molecules transduced from donor cells to reporters.
The biggest spotlight of our project is that we are the first team to have two mammalian cell line cocultured in micro culture environment. At the same time, we built mathematical and physical model to characterize our project. Furthermore, we extend our aims to not only develop a method for studying cell communication in a high-through way, but also build up a microfluidic platform for many other biological application such as drug screening, immunological recognition, single-cell sequencing and biomaterial synthesis.