The widespread use of gene therapy as a therapeutic tool relies on the development of DNA-carrying vehicles devoid of any safety concerns. In contrast to viral vectors, non-viral gene carriers show promise in this perspective, although their low transfection efficiency leads to the necessity to carry out further optimizations. In order to overcome the limitations of traditional macroscale approaches, which mainly consist of time-consuming and simplified models, a microfluidic strategy has been developed to carry out transfection studies on single cells in a high-throughput and deterministic fashion. A single cell trapping mechanism has been implemented, based on the dynamic variation of fluidic resistances. For this purpose, we designed a round-shaped culture chamber integrated with a bottom trapping junction, which modulates the hydraulic resistance. Several layouts of the chamber were designed and computationally validated for optimization of the single cell trapping efficacy. The optimized chamber layout was integrated in a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) microfluidic platform presenting two main functionalities: (i) 288 chambers for trapping single cells, and (ii) a serial dilution generator with chaotic mixing properties, able to deliver to the chambers both soluble factors and non-diffusive particles (i.e., polymer/DNA complexes, polyplexes) under spatio-temporally controlled chemical patterns. The devices were experimentally validated and allowed the trapping of individual human glioblastoma-astrocytoma epithelial-like cells (U87-MG) with a trapping efficacy of about 40%. The cells were cultured within the device and underwent preliminary transfection experiments using 25 kDa linear polyethylenimine (lPEI)-based polyplexes, confirming the potentiality of the proposed platform for the future high-throughput screening of gene delivery vectors and for the optimization of transfection protocols.
Occhetta, P., C. Malloggi, A. Gazaneo, A. Redaelli, G. Candiani, M. Rasponi