Biomedical Microdevices

, Volume 11, Issue 6, pp 1317-1330

First online:

RoboSCell: an automated single cell arraying and analysis instrument

  • Kelly SakakiAffiliated withMechatronic Systems Engineering, School of Engineering Science, Simon Fraser University Email author 
  • , Ian G. FouldsAffiliated withDepartment of Electrical Engineering, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology
  • , William LiuAffiliated withDepartment of Mechanical Engineering, University of Victoria
  • , Nikolai DechevAffiliated withDepartment of Mechanical Engineering, University of Victoria
  • , Robert D. BurkeAffiliated withDepartment of Biochemistry and Microbiology, University of Victoria
  • , Edward J. ParkAffiliated withMechatronic Systems Engineering, School of Engineering Science, Simon Fraser University

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Single cell research has the potential to revolutionize experimental methods in biomedical sciences and contribute to clinical practices. Recent studies suggest analysis of single cells reveals novel features of intracellular processes, cell-to-cell interactions and cell structure. The methods of single cell analysis require mechanical resolution and accuracy that is not possible using conventional techniques. Robotic instruments and novel microdevices can achieve higher throughput and repeatability; however, the development of such instrumentation is a formidable task. A void exists in the state-of-the-art for automated analysis of single cells. With the increase in interest in single cell analyses in stem cell and cancer research the ability to facilitate higher throughput and repeatable procedures is necessary. In this paper, a high-throughput, single cell microarray-based robotic instrument, called the RoboSCell, is described. The proposed instrument employs a partially transparent single cell microarray (SCM) integrated with a robotic biomanipulator for in vitro analyses of live single cells trapped at the array sites. Cells, labeled with immunomagnetic particles, are captured at the array sites by channeling magnetic fields through encapsulated permalloy channels in the SCM. The RoboSCell is capable of systematically scanning the captured cells temporarily immobilized at the array sites and using optical methods to repeatedly measure extracellular and intracellular characteristics over time. The instrument’s capabilities are demonstrated by arraying human T lymphocytes and measuring the uptake dynamics of calcein acetoxymethylester—all in a fully automated fashion.


Single cell Automation Instrumentation Manipulation Microarray MEMS Immunomagnetic