Cell and Particle Behavior in Microfluidic Mixers: Applications in Cell Signaling Dynamics
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Fluid mixing is common in large-scale chemical processes. Recently, many biological or chemical processes are carried out in microfluidic systems, where mixing of solutes is predominantly a diffusion process due to the laminar nature of the flow at the micro scale. Different mixing strategies have been employed to effectively decrease the characteristic length for diffusion. However, particle mixing behavior in fluid is still not well understood. To assess the critical factors behind fluid-particle behavior at Reynolds numbers where inertial and viscous forces both play a role, we experimentally studied three dimensional particle distributions as a function of flow velocity, fluid and particle properties, and mixer geometries, using a fast microscopy technique we developed. Computational Fluid Dynamics was also used to understand the particle flow characteristics as influenced by relevant forces. With this knowledge, efficient unit operations in multiphase systems (e.g. mixing and separation) can be designed, especially in microfluidic technologies for many biological and medical applications that handle cells and beads. In particular, for our study in the signaling dynamics in T cell activation for adoptive-transfer cancer immune therapy. The microchip in this case provides a platform for obtaining well-controlled data points in parallel, superior to bench-top assay performances.