Probing biological systems locally in an “open” space can lead to new insight and breakthroughs. Living matter “likes” surfaces. Substrates that are functionalized for biological applications are increasingly used and also commercially available. Microfluidics should be able to interact with such substrates in the “open” space, essentially in their native state, which will facilitate the study of biological samples. To succeed in these endeavors, microfluidics needs to eliminate one of their major constraints: the walls.
BioProbe aims to develop a game changing technology with the following characteristics, in the context of medically relevant investigations:
Non-invasive: they should preferably work in a “non-contact” mode to minimize the perturbation of the biological interface.
Immersed: the presence of a buffer/liquid environment would prevent drying artifacts, such as denaturation.
Biocompatible: no toxic materials or chemicals should be needed, and the techniques should be compatible with typical ranges of pH values, temperature, ionic strengths, sheer forces, and pressures.
Flexible: compatibility with different materials, topographies, length scales (μm to cm), and volumes inherent to biological systems would be beneficial.
Interactive: the technique should provide feedback (e.g. current, voltage, force, optical signal) during interaction with the biological interface.
The microfluidic technology we are developing can control and build structured micro-environments by altering the physics and chemistry of cells with cellular spatial granularity, or on account of the scanning ability, work with larger areas.
We propose and describe the concept of open space microfluidics in our recent review article “Microfluidics in the open space for performing local chemistries on biological interfaces.”