The ability to spatially confine living cells or small organisms while dynamically controlling their aqueous environment is important for a host of microscopy applications. Here, we show how polyacrylamide layers can be patterned to construct simple microfluidic devices for this purpose. We find that polyacrylamide gels can be molded like PDMS into micron-scale structures that can enclose organisms, while being permeable to liquids, and transparent to allow for microscopic observation. We present a range of chemostat-like devices to observe bacterial and yeast growth, and C. elegans nematode development. The devices can integrate PDMS layers and allow for temporal control of nutrient conditions and the presence of drugs on a minute timescale. We show how spatial confinement of motile C. elegans enables for time-lapse microscopy in a parallel fashion.

PLoS One

Nghe, P., Boulineau, S., Gude, S., Recouvreux, P., van Zon, J., & Tans, S. (2013). Microfabricated polyacrylamide devices for the controlled culture of growing cells and developing organisms. PLoS One, 8(9, Article number: 75537), 1–11. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075537