Microfluidics and microbial engineering
The combination of microbial engineering and microfluidics is synergistic in nature. For example, microfluidics is benefiting from the outcome of microbial engineering and many reported point-of-care microfluidic devices employ engineered microbes as functional parts for the microsystems. In addition, microbial engineering is facilitated by various microfluidic techniques, due to their inherent strength in high-throughput screening and miniaturization. In this review article, we firstly examine the applications of engineered microbes for toxicity detection, biosensing, and motion generation in microfluidic platforms. Secondly, we look into how microfluidic technologies facilitate the upstream and downstream processes of microbial engineering, including DNA recombination, transformation, target microbe selection, mutant characterization, and microbial function analysis. Thirdly, we highlight an emerging concept in microbial engineering, namely, microbial consortium engineering, where the behavior of a multicultural microbial community rather than that of a single cell/species is delineated. Integrating the disciplines of microfluidics and microbial engineering opens up many new opportunities, for example in diagnostics, engineering of microbial motors, development of portable devices for genetics, high throughput characterization of genetic mutants, isolation and identification of rare/unculturable microbial species, single-cell analysis with high spatio-temporal resolution, and exploration of natural microbial communities.