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iGEM 2014 Microfluidics New Track

We are excited to announce that iGEM is establishing a new microfluidics track for iGEM 2014! For the 2014 competition, a limited number of teams will be able to participate in the microfluidics track.

Introduction to Microfluidics

Microfluidic, or “lab-on-a-chip” technology, is a maturing field of research involving miniaturized systems where fluids are manipulated on the scale of nanoliters and picoliters. With microfluidics it is possible to perform high-throughput biological experiments integrating multiple functions in devices no larger than a postage stamp. Researchers have successfully miniaturized oligo synthesis1, gene2 and genetic circuit assembly3, along with cell culture4.

In this track, each team will receive an 8-channel, open-source microfluidic controller (Figure 1, right) along with silicon molds for fabricating a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS)-based ring-mixer device for genetic circuit assembly (Figure 1, left). PDMS microfluidic devices, fabricated by multilayer soft lithography, enable thousands of flexible valves to be integrated into cm2 devices and allow users to carry out complex fluid operations such as the parallel compartmentalization of thousands of picoliter-scale volumes, pumping, and mixing5,6.

Microfluidics chip and schematic Microfluidics setup images

Figure 1 (left) A ring-mixer microfluidic device for genetic circuit assembly showing four device operations. Scale-bar represents 10 mm. (right) A 32-channel Arduino-based microfluidic controller. Students will receive an 8-channel version.

The controller can execute pneumatically-driven device operations comprising a full microfluidic genetic circuit assembly protocol (Figure 1, left) with the push of a button and does not require tethering with a computer for function. Solenoids for pneumatic manipulation are controlled by an open-source Arduino Mega microcontroller, and device operations, written in open-source software, Arduino Sketch, are customizable. A protocol for genetic circuit assembly will be pre-loaded into each controller.

Representatives from each team will be expected to attend a Tutorial Weekend at iGEM headquarters in April (exact date TBD) where instructors will show students how to fabricate their own devices, program the controller, and ultimately operate the devices and perform a genetic circuit assembly reaction.

During the summer, teams will be expected to:

  1. Fabricate their own microfluidic devices. Teams can use the silicon molds provided to manufacture ring-mixers, but are encouraged to leverage any available rapid prototyping tools (laser-cutting, 3D printing, etc) to design and make their own devices.
  2. Perform synthetic biology experiments with their devices. Using their fabricated devices and either the provided controller or any of their own custom hardware (also encouraged), teams must demonstrate synthetic biology experiments with their system. These experiments could range from genetic circuit assembly to cell culture to circuit-testing in devices.
  3. Finally, teams will upload any new digital designs for devices and/or hardware along with any new controller code to “Metafluidics,” a new open repository of device and hardware designs for microfluidics, to share with a larger miniaturization community.

Space is limited, so please apply for the new microfluidics track as soon as you can!

Track Instructors:

  • Dr. David Sun Kong, MIT Lincoln Laboratory
  • Dr. Todd Thorsen, MIT Lincoln Laboratory
  • Mr. Michael VanInsberghe, University of British Columbia
  • References:

    1. Lee, C-C., Snyder T.M., and Quake, S.R. 2010. A microfluidic oligonucleotide synthesizer. Nucleic Acids Research 1:8.
    2. Kong, D.S., P.A. Carr, L. Chen, S. Zhang, and J.M. Jacobson. 2007. Parallel gene synthesis in a microfluidic device. Nucleic Acids Research, 35, e61.
    3. Kong, D.S., Thorsen, T.A., Babb, J., Wick, S., Gam, J., Weiss, R., and Carr, P.A. 2013. Open-Source Microfluidic Genetic Circuit Assembly, manuscript submitted.
    4. Zhang, B., Kim, M.-C., Thorsen, T.A., Wang, Z. 2009. A self-contained microfluidic cell culture system. Biomed Microdevices, DOI 10.1007/s10544-009-9342-4
    5. Unger, M.A., Chou, H.-P., Thorsen, T., Scherer, A., and Quake, S.R. 2000. Monolithic Microfabricated Valves and Pumps by Multilayer Soft Lithography. Science, 288, 113-116.
    6. Thorsen, T., Maerkl, S.J. and Quake, S.R. 2002. Microfluidic large-scale integration. Science,298, 580-584.