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Droplet Microfluidics Offers a New Approach for Studying Plant Cell Biomechanics
Researchers in the Department of Plant Biology at the University of Vermont are taking advantage of the ease of use and reproducibility of Dolomite Microfluidics’ microfluidic droplet system and glass junction chips to enhance the study of biomechanics.
“Sophisticated tools are now available for the investigation of the genetic structure of plants and subcellular processes, but hardly any exist for studying plant biomechanics at the cellular level,” commented Associate Professor Philip M. Lintilhac. “Scientists have attempted to study plant structures using techniques such as photoelastic modeling and high speed video micrography, but these approaches suffer from significant interference, or are difficult to interpret. The dawn of droplet microfluidics has opened the door to novel ways of manipulating individual cells, capturing them in an isotropic and homogenous mechanical environment where variables can be isolated more effectively. Once encapsulated in hydrogel beads, the cells are isolated from the physical influence of neighboring cells and can be subjected to controlled mechanical forces.”
“We initially used a pressure-driven atomization process to produce a stream of droplets, before discovering that Dolomite Microfluidics offers a commercially available system that can reliably and reproducibly encapsulate individual cells in hydrogel beads. This system allows us to easily control droplet diameter by adjusting the flow rates, and generates up to 130 consistently sized, spherical hydrogel microbeads per second. It has allowed us to adopt a completely new approach to studying plant cell biomechanics, and we are now optimizing the process and experimenting with ways to further improve the application of droplet microfluidics to plant cell biology,” Philip concluded.