There are single cell organisms in existence that, after being cut in two, regenerate themselves into two separate fully functional living beings. Understanding the mechanism of this ability can help to better study cancer, improve treatment for physical injuries, and track the development of neurodegenerative diseases. But, carefully splitting single cells into two is a slow and tedious manual process that produces too few samples for large scale studies. Researchers at Stanford University have now developed a microfluidic device that can cut individual cells 200 times faster than existing methods with about the same survival rates.
The device, reported on in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, continuously moves a stream of individual cells toward a tiny guillotine that splits each into two. It is able to process 150 cells in about two minutes, accurately dividing each of them into equal parts, a task that’s rather difficult when performed by hand. Because the cells are split so quickly they can be studied en masse, as opposed to having some much further in the regeneration process while others are still being split.
For particularly large studies, the rate at which cells are processed can be sped up by simply adding more guillotine-containing parallel microfluidic channels to a given device.
Here’s an up-close video showing how the microfluidic guillotine works:
And just for fun, here’s a Stentor coeruleus cell reviving itself as two individual organisms after being cut in two:
Study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Microfluidic guillotine for single-cell wound repair studies…