Team:EPF Lausanne/PolicyPractice



Microfluidic Chip Registry

While designing and making our new microfluidic chips, the 2014 iGEM EPFL team realized that it would be a great to have a microfluidic iGEM registry analogue to the current iGEM DNA Parts registry. Similarly to BioBricks, microfluidic chips also have several levels of structures that can be combined and reused as building blocks.

Creating a database of these parts would contribute to the already enormous library of DNA parts, and would moreover give a help all the iGEM teams looking into integrating microfluidics in their projects.

As a microfluidic registry isn’t available, we created this one one with as template the DNA parts registry to make this novel registry's integration easy. We kept in mind that the registry will develop itself, just as chip designs will integrate new parts, so we designed a nomenclature system enabling both horizontal (adding types of parts) and vertical (adding sub-parts) expansion.

Structure of the Microfluidic Parts Registry

The suggested system for structuring the novel microfluidic parts registry is modeled as seen bellow. Each box represents each type of reusable microfluidic design or protocol.
There is the Microfluidic Chip Design repository, which contains the pages where each team's designs are documented.
There is the Mask & Wafer Protocol repository, which contains the detailed protocols to make masks and wafers.
The third white box corresponds to the third repository, the Chip Fabrication Protocol repository. It contains the protocols to make the chips once the wafers are made.
Lastly, there is the Usage Protocol & Software repository, which contains the chip usage protocols and any software created to automatically control the chip.
The related pages in each repository are linked to one another in the following way: the Chip Design page will link to its Mask and Wafer Protocol, its Chip Fabrication Protocol, and to its Usage Protocol & Software page. In the graph below, links are represented by red arrows.

This design aims to blend in the current registry while maintaining a uniform structure of microfluidic reusable parts.

As such a structure needs a different submission page than the ones already existing, we designed it. You can find a sample submission page for microfluidic parts here. A sample page of a Microfluidic Chip Information Page was also made.

Chip Design Page

Similar to the DNA BioBricks pages, the Microfluidic Chip Design page includes:

  • A short description of the chip, its intended purpose

  • The design file of the chip*

  • An information page with the owner, the part type, a list of components, the intended material...

  • Links to the other parts related to this one (protocols used on this chip)

* To make that possible, the iGEM server has to allow uploads of design files such as: .gds, .dxf, .cif, and .dvg.

Mask & Wafer Protocol Page

The Mask & Wafer Protocol (MWP) pages consist of the detailed procedures of mask & wafer fabrication. They include a list of instruments and materials, and the exact procedure, organized as a series of bullet points.

Chip Fabrication Protocol Page

The Chip Fabrication Protocol (CFP) pages are similar to the Mask & Wafer Protocol pages, as they are highly detailed and specific.

These pages are also linked to one another when used for the same chip, as can be seen in the diagram above. That creates a network of compatible protocols and procedures, very useful for other iGEM teams.

Usage Protocol & Safety Page

The Usage Protocol & Software pages consist of the protocols for the experiments and chip setup procedures. These procedures can be less detailed and specific than those in the MWP and CFP pages, as they are more easily modified. They can be videos of the setup procedure. As microfluidic users sometimes create software to control their experiment automatically, this would be included in this page, for other teams to use.

Naming the parts

The microfluidic parts would be named similarly to the DNA BioBricks:

With this naming structure, a fast identification of the main type of chip is possible.

The chips' units are not separated in different parts, as it is important to see the construction around each functional unit. However, as these units had to be found easily within the database, a selection of components was added to the part submission page, which would appear in the information page.

Enlarging project possibilities

iGEM projects are becoming more complex and innovative. The variety of organisms, biological components, and technologies are rapidly evolving leading to a restructuring of the context in which they can be integrated. We believe that microfluidic chips are the ideal devices to reunite these elements in an easy and safe way - no wonder they call them "labs on a chip".

Related to our safety work, the use of microfluidic chips improves risk management when working with genetically modified cells. Microfluidics provide a contained interface allowing bacteria to evolve in a stable and isolated environment.
This last point could turn out useful for the development of iGEM as it could expand the range of organisms possible for use. On the long term, this interface could allow iGEM teams to make use of level 2 organisms, and use of expensive organisms such as stem cells. We hope this novel interface will bring a surge of new ideas.