Microfluidics is a multidisciplinary field that operates at the microscale with small amount of fluids. The hydrodynamic characteristics allow the control of chemicals, cells, lipids, and nucleic acids in space and time. Therefore, microfluidics enables applications that would not be feasible at the macroscale and this platform demonstrates high potentiality as a tool for in vitro cell culture, biological models and drug research. The microenvironment uses few amounts of sample and reagents that flows in microchannels in the laminar regime since no external force is applied. In this case, the micron scale minimizes effects of mass and heat transfer, allowing integration of different techniques for data acquisition in different ways than macro scale.
These characteristics open great opportunities for technological research in the fields of Micro/Nano & Biotechnology:
Micro & Nanotechnology
We explore the synthesis of nanoparticles and nanoaggregates in microfluidic systems. The effect of flow pattern can influence the physico-chemical properties of nanomaterials, reflecting in different in vivo or in vitro behavior. The synthesis of self-assembled nanomaterials, as lipid and polymer-based nanoparticles, can be explored in microfluidic devices, providing a better understanding of the mechanisms that govern nanoparticles formation. We are interested in developing nanoparticles capable of delivering bioactive molecules and genetic material, both plasmid DNA and silencing RNA for gene delivery applications towards specific cells. Droplet microfluidics can also be explored as a strategy to develop new biomaterial delivery systems capable of encapsulating molecules, nanoparticles, and cells. Each drop is a controlled environment to track chemical reactions and complexation. It is also a suitable tool for particle formation and bioactive encapsulation, allowing the buildup of hierarchical and self-organized structures within the microchannels.
Microdevices can be designed to evaluate reaction kinetics in real time, reducing analysis time. These systems have been applied for cellular investigations including evaluation of cell behavior by gradient generator devices, cultivating cells in microbioreactor system, generating droplets to encapsulate biological agents and even analyzing the dynamic of encapsulated cells through droplet-based systems. In addition, possibilities for using microfluidics increase when coupled to biophotonics and cell biology, to allow major advances in the biomedical, bio-engineering and biotechnology areas. In this way, concentration gradient generators can be explored to determine cell growth kinetic; MIC (Minimum Inhibitory Concentration) and IC50 (half minimal 50% inhibitory concentration). Cell analysis can be performed dynamically in different biological conditions, beyond that, cell growth can be monitored simultaneously during drug screening assays. The heterogeneity of cells during in vitro mammalian cells transfection can be also be tracked in microfluidic approaches. Microfluidics can also be applied to mimic organs, wherein, advanced and complex cultivation can be designed in an organ-on-a-chip device. However, efforts are still required to design microdevices that operate in a simple way for daily use in research laboratories. The future of microfluidics associated with biotechnology probably lies in the possibility to provide low cost and efficient solutions for complex problems, including personalized medicine, drug approval, and synthetic biology