Microfluidics: Big developments on the small scale

Life sciences is a blanket term used to describe the study of all things relative to living organisms, such as biology, physiology, and biochemistry. These sciences are crucial to solving everyday problems and rely on advanced analytical methods like microscopy, chromatography, and spectrometry to reveal important information that can be used to overcome challenges in areas like health and medicine.1

Image Credit: luchschenF/Shutterstock

Image Credit: luchschenF/Shutterstock

For example, bioanalysis can potentially contribute to the development of effective vaccines and drugs to treat diseases and help clinical researchers diagnose and treat people.2 Due to its prevalence, bioanalytics and its role in life sciences are spotlighted at Pittcon – a laboratory science conference and exposition.

In their quest to improve current and traditional analytical methods of the lab, biomedical scientists will be coming together at this annual conference to collaborate and innovate. Existing analytical techniques used regularly in the life sciences, like liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry, strengthen the precision and specificity of data collection. However, there are still further improvements to be made regarding their efficacy and cost.3 Traditional bioanalytical techniques are limited in how sensitive, quickly, and efficiently they can analyze data, and innovations can help overcome these roadblocks to advancement.3

Microfluidics, in particular, is an encouraging area of research with the potential to solve prevailing challenges in bioanalytics. At Pittcon, the emphasis will be placed on how microfluidics can improve bioanalysis and various innovative applications in life sciences.  

What is Microfluidics, and How Does it Relate to Life Science?

Microfluidics refers to the technology and methods used to analyze fluids on a very small scale.4 When it comes to microfluidic research, fewer resources are required, sensitivity is significantly improved, and researchers have much greater control over their experiments, ultimately reducing expenditure and enhancing efficiency. Microfluidics is essential in bioanalysis and can be impactful in life science fields that incorporate biology and chemistry concepts. From providing insight into cell behavior to optimizing drug development, microfluidics transforms biomedicine.4,5

One of the most notable achievements of microfluidics in the life sciences sector is the "lab-on-a-chip" – a miniaturized device that allows for a high level of control over experiments on a micro-scale without compromising data quality, a trait that is challenging when using conventional methods.6 Furthermore, biomedical researchers specializing in omics can use microfluidics to study genes and proteins within cells through droplets and microwells. These microfluidics methodologies provide a small, controlled, and precise sample type that is quick and efficient to analyze.7

Today's researchers are innovating microfluidics platforms to streamline current processes and improve applicability to life science problems. Pittcon will provide a stage for scientific experts to present their work, generate new ideas, and cultivate opportunities for collaboration surrounding microfluidics.

Advancing Bioanalysis using Microfluidics

Microfluidics leads to invention. In the Pittcon talk entitled "A Multiplexed CRISPR-Cas12a-based Microfluidic Device for Waterborne Pathogen Detection", West Virginia University Ph.D. student Kathrine Curtin will outline the creation of a new device that is able to detect harmful pathogens in water to help prevent outbreaks of disease in populations.8 As a researcher dedicated to material science and engineering, Curtin's past projects have involved the development of lab-on-chip devices to help detect biomarkers – an important biological molecule used in the development of novel therapeutics and drugs.9

Scientists will also talk about innovations to enhance existing bioanalytical methodologies in the symposium "Advances in Microfluidic Separations for Biological and Pharmaceutical Applications." 10 Scientists have previously used microfluidics to combine two different PCR techniques into a single, effective assay to analyze liposomes in a paper published recently in the journal Analytical Chemistry.11 Liposomes are important vehicles used to deliver drugs in biopharmaceutical products, and this research highlights an important method to extract critical information that can inform drug delivery design.

Professor Hee-Sun Han of the University of Illinois will discuss the advantages of microfluidics when studying cells and their interactions with other cells or pathogens.12 The talk, titled "Microfluidics for High Resolution Biology," emphasizes the integral role of microfluidics in biomedicine and cell studies. Han's expertise focuses on physical chemistry, and her lab develops novel bioanalytical platforms based on microfluidics to understand molecular and cellular mechanisms in the body.12

A symposium of presenters will further highlight the bioanalytical power of microfluidics through advanced technological methods.13 Some of the topics that will be explored include improving the stability of a microfluidics device designed to study proteins in cells, analyzing RNA and DNA samples with microfluidics, and developing an assay to quantify tumor factors using microfluidics.

Pittcon will host innovative leaders from the life science industry, including AHN Biotechnologie GmbH and Sensirion, to help showcase the practical application of microfluidics and to help translate this field to market.

Microfluidics Research and Applications at Pittcon

At Pittcon, microfluidics will take center stage as a key way to create cutting-edge solutions to bioanalysis challenges in life science. Whether it be for the detection of pathogens in water to prevent disease outbreaks or measuring biomolecules in human systems to develop medicine, microfluidics has a transformative role to play in many life science labs.14

To find out more about Pittcon and register, please visit the Pittcon website.15

References and further reading

  1. Elsevier. “Analytical Techniques in Biosciences - 1st Edition.” (2023) Elsevier.com. Available at: www.elsevier.com/books/analytical-techniques-in-biosciences/egbuna/978-0-12-822654-4. Accessed 3 February 2023.
  2. News-Medical. “Why Bioanalytics and Life Sciences Is Crucial to Our Everyday Lives.” (2023) News-Medical.net, Available at: www.news-medical.net/whitepaper/20230112/Why-Bioanalytics-And-Life-Sciences-Is-Crucial-To-Our-Everyday-Lives.aspx#:~:text=Why%20Bioanalytics%20And%20Life%20Sciences%20Is%20Crucial%20To%20Our%20Everyday%20Lives&text=Bioanalytics%20determines%20the%20concentration%20of,In%20short%2C%20biomedicine%20improves%20health. Accessed 2 February 2023.
  3. Sangster, Timothy, and Mike Oliver. (2012) Interview: Challenges Faced by the Modern Bioanalytical Laboratory. Bioanalysis, 4(19), pp. 2329–2333, https://doi.org/10.4155/bio.12.244. Accessed 2 August 2020.
  4. News-Medical. “What Is Microfluidics?” (2017) News-Medical.net, Available at: www.news-medical.net/life-sciences/What-is-Microfluidics.aspx. Accessed 2 February 2023.
  5. News-Medical. “Microfluidics Applications.” (2017) News-Medical.net. Availablt at: www.news-medical.net/life-sciences/Microfluidics-Applications.aspx. Accessed 2 February 2023.
  6. Ortseifen, Vera, et al. (2020) Microfluidics for Biotechnology: Bridging Gaps to Foster Microfluidic Applications. Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, 8, https://doi.org/10.3389/fbioe.2020.589074. Accessed 2 February 2023.
  7. Lamanna, Julian, et al.  (2020) Digital Microfluidic Isolation of Single Cells for -Omics. Nature Communications, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-19394-5. Accessed 3 February 2023.
  8. “Pittcon - Session.” (2023) Secure-Platform.com, pittcon.secure-platform.com/2023/solicitations/1/sessiongallery/308. Accessed 2 February. 2023.
  9. Kathrine CURTIN | Graduate Student | Bachelor of Science | West Virginia University, WV | WVU | Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering | Research Profile. (2017) ResearchGate, ResearchGate, Available at: www.researchgate.net/profile/Kathrine-Curtin. Accessed 2 Feb. 2023.
  10. ‌“Pittcon - Session.” (2023) Secure-Platform.com.  pittcon.secure-platform.com/2023/solicitations/1/sessiongallery/147. Accessed 2 February 2023.
  11. McCarthy Riley, Bailey F., et al. (2022) Microfluidic Digital Quantitative PCR to Measure Internal Cargo of Individual Liposomes. Analytical Chemistry, 94(20), pp. 7433–7441, https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.analchem.2c01232. Accessed 3 February 2023..
  12. “Pittcon - Session.” (2023) Secure-Platform.com. pittcon.secure-platform.com/2023/solicitations/1/sessiongallery/153. Accessed 2 February 2023.
  13. “Pittcon - Session.” (2023) Secure-Platform.com. pittcon.secure-platform.com/2023/solicitations/1/sessiongallery/553. Accessed 2 February 2023.
  14. “Pittcon - Session Gallery.” (2023) Secure-Platform.com. pittcon.secure-platform.com/2023/solicitations/1/sessiongallery?searchParams=%7B%22pageIndex%22%3A0%2C%22sortMode%22%3A%22SessionName%22%2C%22sortDirection%22%3A%22Ascending%22%2C%22sortByFieldId%22%3Anull%2C%22displayMode%22%3A%22List%22%2C%22filterByFieldValues%22%3A%5B%5D%2C%22filterByTextValue%22%3A%22%22%2C%22filterByFavorites%22%3Afalse%2C%22filterByScheduleRoomIds%22%3A%5B%5D%2C%22filterBySessionTypeIds%22%3A%5B12%5D%2C%22filterByScheduleDayIds%22%3A%5B%5D%2C%22filterByScheduleTimeSlotIds%22%3A%5B%5D%2C%22isScheduleOtherEventSearchAllowed%22%3Atrue%7D. Accessed 1 February 2023.
  15. “Home - Pittcon Conference + Expo.” (2023) Pittcon Conference + Expo, 19 Jan. 2023, pittcon.org/. Accessed 1 February 2023.

About Pittcon

Pittcon® is a registered trademark of The Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy, a Pennsylvania non-profit organization. Co-sponsored by the Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh and the Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh, Pittcon is the premier annual conference and exposition on laboratory science.

Proceeds from Pittcon fund science education and outreach at all levels, kindergarten through adult. Pittcon donates more than a million dollars a year to provide financial and administrative support for various science outreach activities including science equipment grants, research grants, scholarships and internships for students, awards to teachers and professors, and grants to public science centers, libraries and museums.

Visit pittcon.org for more information.


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Last updated: Feb 1, 2024 at 6:26 AM

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