Versatile, cell and chip friendly method to gel alginate in microfluidic devices†
Alginate is used extensively in microfluidic devices to produce discrete beads or fibres at the microscale. Such structures may be used to encapsulate sensitive cargoes such as cells and biomolecules. On chip gelation of alginate represents a significant challenge since gelling kinetics or physicochemical conditions are not biocompatible. Here we present a new method that offers a hitherto unprecedented level of control over the gelling kinetics and pH applied to the encapsulation of a variety of cells in both bead and fibre geometries. This versatile approach proved straightforward to adjust to achieve appropriate solution conditions required for implementation in microfluidic devices and resulted in highly reliable device operation and very high viability of several different encapsulated cell types for prolonged periods. We believe this method offers a paradigm shift in alginate gelling technology for application in microfluidics.