Chemical transfection of cells in picoliter aqueous droplets in fluorocarbon oil.
ABSTRACT The manipulation of cells inside water-in-oil droplets is essential for high-throughput screening of cell-based assays using droplet microfluidics. Cell transfection inside droplets is a critical step involved in functional genomics studies that examine in situ functions of genes using the droplet platform. Conventional water-in-hydrocarbon oil droplets are not compatible with chemical transfection due to its damage to cell viability and extraction of organic transfection reagents from the aqueous phase. In this work, we studied chemical transfection of cells encapsulated in picoliter droplets in fluorocarbon oil. The use of fluorocarbon oil permitted high cell viability and little loss of the transfection reagent into the oil phase. We varied the incubation time inside droplets, the DNA concentration, and the droplet size. After optimization, we were able to achieve similar transfection efficiency in droplets to that in the bulk solution. Interestingly, the transfection efficiency increased with smaller droplets, suggesting effects from either the microscale confinement or the surface-to-volume ratio.