Microfluidics: reframing biological enquiry

Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2015 Sep;16(9):554-67. doi: 10.1038/nrm4041.


The underlying physical properties of microfluidic tools have led to new biological insights through the development of microsystems that can manipulate, mimic and measure biology at a resolution that has not been possible with macroscale tools. Microsystems readily handle sub-microlitre volumes, precisely route predictable laminar fluid flows and match both perturbations and measurements to the length scales and timescales of biological systems. The advent of fabrication techniques that do not require highly specialized engineering facilities is fuelling the broad dissemination of microfluidic systems and their adaptation to specific biological questions. We describe how our understanding of molecular and cell biology is being and will continue to be advanced by precision microfluidic approaches and posit that microfluidic tools - in conjunction with advanced imaging, bioinformatics and molecular biology approaches - will transform biology into a precision science.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Assay
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Genomics
  • Humans
  • Microfluidic Analytical Techniques*
  • Microfluidics / instrumentation*
  • Models, Biological
  • Single-Cell Analysis