Webinar Review: Flow and medium recirculation in microfluidic cell culture

Over the course of the semester, our trainees are reviewing webinars in their given fields and preparing abstracts to help colleagues outside their discipline make an informed choice about watching them. As our program bridges diverse disciplines, these abstracts are beneficial for our own group in helping one another gain key knowledge in each other’s fields. We are happy to share these here for anyone else who may find them helpful.

Flow and medium recirculation in microfluidic cell culture

Lisa Muiznieks, PhD; and Barbara Corelli, PhD

March 16, 2021

Hosted by Elveflow Microfluidics

Miles NorsworthyAnalysis by Miles Norsworthy:

This webinar, hosted by Elveflow dynamics, is meant to advertise the advantages of the OB1 flow control unit for microfluidic cell culturing applications.

The webinar begins with the broader benefits of microfluidic devices when it comes to cell culture. These include increased complexity of the cellular environment such as walls and interconnects, the ability to reduce the quantity needed of expensive reagents as well as reduce the use of animal models. The last benefit mentioned intrigued me as I typically think of microfluidic culturing as an improved means of cell culture rather than a potential alternative to using animal models. As it turns out, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in Germany has developed its own VISION program that aims to reduce animal use via microfluidics and other technology. The webinar touches on the use of “organ on a chip” combinations to simulate an organism but what I did not hear was the potential use of organoids. If this benefit of reduced animal use with microfluidics is to be realized, connecting organoids together via recirculation seems like a logical next step.

Once the webinar progressed past the general benefits of microfluidic devices and the controlled flow they can make use of the OB1 flow control system was revealed. The device functions much like other pumps in that it is located outside of an incubator with the necessary tubing being fed through a mostly closed incubator door. I would love to see a pumping system that can be placed inside an incubator without increasing the chances of contamination but given the complexity of their recirculation system this may not be feasible. The OB1 flow system makes use of their clever rotary valve MUX recirculation device to change which source of media is used to flow through an attached microfluidic device. According to the presenter, this has allowed the maintenance of cell cultures for weeks with little to no cell death.

While there are still some limitations to the OB1 system and the use of microfluidic systems for the reduction of animal use, I find the system to be a useful tool for researchers. The need to produce more in vivo like conditions for in vitro experiments will persist until animal use can be abolished entirely assuming that is possible. If you have a need for long term recirculation in your cell cultures, I recommend that you take a look at this webinar.