Stem cells are a powerful resource for producing a variety of cell types with utility in clinically associated applications, including preclinical drug screening and development, disease and developmental modeling, and regenerative medicine. Regardless of the type of stem cell, substantial barriers to clinical translation still exist and must be overcome to realize full clinical potential. These barriers span processes including cell isolation, expansion, and differentiation; purification, quality control, and therapeutic efficacy and safety; and the economic viability of bioprocesses for production of functional cell products. Microfluidic systems have been developed for a myriad of biological applications and have the intrinsic capability of controlling and interrogating the cellular microenvironment with unrivalled precision; therefore, they have particular relevance to overcoming such barriers to translation. Development of microfluidic technologies increasingly utilizes stem cells, addresses stem cell-relevant biological phenomena, and aligns capabilities with translational challenges and goals. In this concise review, we describe how microfluidic technologies can contribute to the translation of stem cell research outcomes, and we provide an update on innovative research efforts in this area. This timely convergence of stem cell translational challenges and microfluidic capabilities means that there is now an opportunity for both disciplines to benefit from increased interaction.
Keywords: Investigative techniques; Microfluidics; Stem cell research; Stem cells; Translational medical research.