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How do you solve a problem like scaling up microfluidics?

Culturing cells using microfluidics offers several advantages over traditional cell culture techniques – the main one being the ability to precisely control the microenvironment. This means the availability of nutrients, oxygen levels, and pH can be finely tuned to the cells’ needs, resulting in more accurate and reproducible results with optimized reagent consumption (1).

Microfluidic cell culture is well-suited for online analytics. Microfluidic devices can be equipped with sensors to allow continuous, real-time monitoring of cells as they grow and respond to various stimuli (2). This enables detailed data collection on cell behaviour and responses, which can provide valuable insights and facilitate the development of new therapies. Microfluidic devices can also be easily automated, making them the perfect next generation bioreactor platform for cell research – more precise and controlled processes, automatable, low usage of reagents, and compatible with online analytics.

But what about scale? Getting 100,000 perfect cells doesn’t help patients. Millions, often billions of cells are needed to make a dose. And that’s were microfluidics stopped being relevant… until now.

At MicrofluidX, we have parallelized dozens of microfluidic bioreactors onto a larger array that forms our manufacturing bioreactor, producing up to 6 billion cells. Our parallelization strategy is inspired by the semiconductor industry and adapted to incorporate fluid and cells, ensuring homogeneous distribution to each bioreactor. The benefit of this is that everything remains the same from the point of view of the cells – densities, nutrient and metabolite concentrations, shear stress, gassing, and even analytics. The cells experience the same controlled environment, and the throughput of the system is clinically relevant. Voilà! 

(1) Ram, K. R., Pang, K. K., & Thian, E. S. (2013). Microfluidic platforms for in vitro cell culture and analysis. Lab on a Chip, 13(2), 252-268.

(2) Lai, C., Kim, J., & Wang, L. (2016). Microfluidic cell culture platforms for studying cell-cell interactions. Lab on a Chip, 16(2), 199-212.