The single-cell chemostat
research image

We have developed a microfluidic platform for high-throughput measurement of growth and gene expression in single, living bacterial cells. For further detail about the device, please see our paper in Lab on a Chip. If you are interested in using the device in your lab, please contact us.

Summary: Time-lapse microscopy of growing bacteria has been an extremely successful technique, revealing the natural heterogeneity that underlies growth and gene expression in single cells. However, the exponential growth of bacteria depletes the local nutrient environment and crowds cells, ultimately limiting measurement duration. With our device, we are able to circumvent the low throughput of such measurements by combining microfluidic techniques, microarray technology, and automated image analysis to create a massively parallel, high-throughput, single-cell chip: a living analog of the DNA microarray. The agarose-based chemostat allows us to cultivate and image hundreds of thousands of individual, living bacterial cells over 30-40 generations. The entire microfluidic assembly fits on standard microscope slides and permits high quality images with DIC, phase contrast, and fluorescence.

This project is the work of former postdoctoral fellow Jeff Moffitt and former undergraduate student Jeff Lee. Collectively, current lab members are working on improving the device, including optimizing buffer exchange and the analysis software, and developing methods to print multiple strains of cells.