Year 1

Researchers in the laboratory of Professor Stephen Quake at Stanford University applied microfluidics to stem cell biology, creating a system that enables very precise control of cell culture conditions. Adult cells can be reprogrammed into induced pluripotent stem (IPS) cells by treating them with the right combination of factors; stem cells can be induced to differentiate into desired cell types by treating them with a different combination of factors. Both reprogramming and differentiation require searching for the right combination of factors, so a system which can culture cells with different combinations of factors should be very useful to stem cell scientists. Fluidigm and Stemgent jointly applied for and received a CIRM Tools and Technologies grant to scale up and commercialize this technology, in order to make it more broadly available to the stem cell community.

In the first year of this grant, we have:
• Built a manufacturable version of the microfluidic cell culture chips used in the Quake lab (including several improvements)
• Built a breadboard instrument system capable of loading, culturing, and dosing cells in the chip, as well as automatically imaging the cells at pre-programmed timepoints
• Built a prototype of a commercial chip controller instrument
• Demonstrated the ability to culture multiple cell types on chip (including both cell lines and stem cells)
• Demonstrated the ability to transfect cultured cells (insert genes) using viruses
• Exported live cells out of the chip

Having done these things, we are well positioned to carry out the rest of the work called for in the grant: replicating literature experiments in cell reprogramming, and screening combinations of small molecules, proteins, and nucleic acids for differentiation or reprogramming.