Microfluidic devices are a powerful tool in biological sciences. Different microfluidic techniques have contributed to the improvement of existing biological assays and to the development of novel quantification methods. Droplet-based microfluidics is a technique that is becoming increasingly important for various applications such as single cell analysis, complex biochemical assays, drug screening and directed evolution experiments.
Micro-droplets can be considered as very small reactors with volumes of the order of a picolitre, which can be generated and manipulated in different ways. Various components can easily be encapsulated upon droplet formation and additional reagents can be added post-formation. In collaboration with the group of Prof. John Frater in the Nuffield Department of Medicine in Oxford we are applying droplet-based microfluidics techniques study of HIV-1 infection, and are currently setting up a system to sort rare HIV-1 infected cells encapsulated in droplets. These cells are particularly interesting since they persist during antiretroviral therapy and are the major obstacle to the eradication of the virus.