Engineering Firm Designs Stem Cell Culture Chip

Fluidigm of San Francisco has announced the manufacture of a "specialized integrated fluidic circuit" that will "enable a variety of cell culture applications" in stem cell research.

The novel product, already commercially available, is expected to standardize and automate the stem cell culturing process, thereby significantly expediting stem cell research while lowering laboratory costs associated with such research. The most immediate application would be in iPS (induced pluripotent stem) cell technology.

According to Marc Unger, chief scientific officer of Fluidigm, "Reprogramming a patient’s differentiated cells, such as skin cells, into stem cells overcomes the inherent ethical and immunological barriers to therapeutic usage of embryonic stem cells. We believe our Stem Cell Culture Chip will be an enabling tool for stem cell researchers. By designing and building a stem cell-specific microfluid chip in conjunction with a complete support system, we can automate much of the mundane process steps and substantially reduce the complexity and cost of fundamental stem cell research."

Among its many characteristics, the Stem Cell Culture Chip and supporting instrumentation will allow for the seeding of chambers with stem cells, as well as automated methods for media exchange and dosing of cells with reagents under programmable control, all of which will be analyzable via time-lapse microscopy under fluorescent as well as transmitted light.

Based in San Francisco, Fluidigm specializes in the manufacture and commercialization of biologically integrated circuits, such as the Integrated Fluidic Circuit (IFC) systems technology – a proprietary platform which involves the miniaturization and integration of liquid-handling components on a single microfluidic device. As described on the company’s website, these IFC systems consist of instrumentation, software and single-use chips which "increase throughput, decrease costs and enhance sensitivity compared to conventional laboratory systems." As further described on the company’s website, "tens of thousands of fluid control valves and interconnected channels are fabricated within miniature devices. We call these devices integrated fluidic circuits (IFCs) because, like their analog in the semiconductor industry, they are networks of discrete pathways and intermediate switches. Instead of electrons, they move molecules of biological samples and reagents in a dazzling variety of patterns." As also stated on their website, "Fluidigm products have not been cleared or approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use as a diagnostic and are only available for research use."

With other similar products in its pipeline, Fluidigm represents a new scientific paradigm in which semiconductor integrated circuitry, nanotechnology, and living biological systems intersect.

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