Biomedical Microdevices

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 553–560 | Cite as

Encapsulation of single cells on a microfluidic device integrating droplet generation with fluorescence-activated droplet sorting

  • Liang Wu
  • Pu Chen
  • Yingsong Dong
  • Xiaojun FengEmail author
  • Bi-Feng Liu


Encapsulation of single cells is a challenging task in droplet microfluidics due to the random compartmentalization of cells dictated by Poisson statistics. In this paper, a microfluidic device was developed to improve the single-cell encapsulation rate by integrating droplet generation with fluorescence-activated droplet sorting. After cells were loaded into aqueous droplets by hydrodynamic focusing, an on-flight fluorescence-activated sorting process was conducted to isolate droplets containing one cell. Encapsulation of fluorescent polystyrene beads was investigated to evaluate the developed method. A single-bead encapsulation rate of more than 98 % was achieved under the optimized conditions. Application to encapsulate single HeLa cells was further demonstrated with a single-cell encapsulation rate of 94.1 %, which is about 200 % higher than those obtained by random compartmentalization. We expect this new method to provide a useful platform for encapsulating single cells, facilitating the development of high-throughput cell-based assays.


Microfluidic chip Droplet Flow focusing Fluorescence-activated droplet sorting Encapsulation HeLa cell 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial supports from National Basic Research Program of China (2011CB910403), National High Technology Research and Development Program of China (2011AA02A103) and National Natural Science Foundation of China (31070770).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Liang Wu
    • 1
  • Pu Chen
    • 1
  • Yingsong Dong
    • 1
  • Xiaojun Feng
    • 1
    Email author
  • Bi-Feng Liu
    • 1
  1. 1.Britton Chance Center for Biomedical Photonics at Wuhan National Laboratory for Optoelectronics-Hubei Bioinformatics & Molecular Imaging Key Laboratory, Systems Biology Theme, Department of Biomedical Engineering, College of Life Science and TechnologyHuazhong University of Science and TechnologyWuhanChina

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