A continuous-flow C. elegans sorting system with integrated optical fiber detection and laminar flow switching
We present a high-throughput continuous-flow C. elegans sorting device that works based on integrated optical fiber detection and laminar flow switching. Two types of genetically engineered nematodes are allowed to flow into the device and their genotypes are detected based on their fluorescence, without the need for immobilization, by integrated optical fibers. A novel dynamic fluidic switch sorts the nematodes to desired outlets. By changing input pressures of the control inlets, the laminar flow path is altered to steer the nematodes to appropriate outlets. Compared to previously reported microfluidic C. elegans sorting devices, sorting in this system is conducted in a continuous flow environment without any immobilization technique or need for multilayer mechanical valves to open and close the outlets. The continuous flow sorter not only increases the throughput but also avoids any kind of invasive or possibly damaging mechanical or chemical stimulus. We have characterized both the detection and the switching accuracy of the sorting device at different flow rates, and efficiencies approaching 100% can be achieved with a high throughput of about one nematode per second. To confirm that there was no significant damage to C. elegans following sorting, we recovered the sorted worms, finding no deaths and no differences in behavior and propagation compared to control.