Analysis of single mammalian cells on-chip
A goal of modern biology is to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying cellular function. The ability to manipulate and analyze single cells is crucial for this task. The advent of microengineering is providing biologists with unprecedented opportunities for cell handling and investigation on a cell-by-cell basis. For this reason, lab-on-a-chip (LOC) technologies are emerging as the next revolution in tools for biological discovery. In the current discussion, we seek to summarize the state of the art for conventional technologies in use by biologists for the analysis of single, mammalian cells, and then compare LOC devices engineered for these same single-cell studies. While a review of the technical progress is included, a major goal is to present the view point of the practicing biologist and the advances that might increase adoption by these individuals. The LOC field is expanding rapidly, and we have focused on areas of broad interest to the biology community where the technology is sufficiently far advanced to contemplate near-term application in biological experimentation. Focus areas to be covered include flow cytometry, electrophoretic analysis of cell contents, fluorescent-indicator-based analyses, cells as small volume reactors, control of the cellular microenvironment, and single-cell PCR.