Year 2

We have optimized and scaled up an advanced (microfluidic) cell culture system into manufacturable form.

The types of experiments required to convert normal cells into cells which can function as stem cells (induced pluripotent stem cells), or convert stem cells into cells of a desired type (e.g. neural cells) require multiple factors (i.e. chemicals). These types of multifactor experiments are necessary for applications of stem cells to medical research, but they are difficult and laborious. Following and expanding on previous work, we have created a cell culture system which allows multifactor experiments to be carried out under computer control, with unprecedented levels of control over the timing and amount of dosing of the cells with different factors.

We utilized advanced microfluidics technology (Multilayer Soft Lithography) to create cell culture chips which could load cells, culture them, and treat them with any combination and permutation of 8 factors. These chips are built in our commercial microfluidics fab, and mounted on plastic carriers which serve as an i/o interface. In the course of the grant, we also built several pieces of instrumentation to control the chips. These instruments control the microfluidics, maintain the correct environment for cell culture, and allow automated imaging of the cells. The controller instrument has been developed to the level of a commercial prototype.

We demonstrated the ability to culture multiple types of cells in these microfluidic chips. We also demonstrated the ability to dose the cells with factors (converting them into stem cells), as well as to dose different chambers of cells with different combinations and permutations of factors.

We believe this system will be a useful tool for the stem cell research community in their search for methods for producing cells useful for medical applications.