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Mixing Crowded Biological Solutions in Milliseconds

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journal contribution
posted on 01.12.2005 by Albert Liau, Rohit Karnik, Arun Majumdar, Jamie H. Doudna Cate
In vitro studies of biological reactions are rarely performed in conditions that reflect their native intracellular environments where macromolecular crowding can drastically change reaction rates. Kinetics experiments require reactants to be mixed on a time scale faster than that of the reaction. Unfortunately, highly concentrated solutions of crowding agents such as bovine serum albumin and hemoglobin that are viscous and sticky are extremely difficult to mix rapidly. We demonstrate a new droplet-based microfluidic mixer that induces chaotic mixing of crowded solutions in milliseconds due to protrusions of the microchannel walls that generate oscillating interfacial shear within the droplets. Mixing in the microfluidic mixer is characterized, mechanisms underlying mixing are discussed, and evidence of biocompatibility is presented. This microfluidic platform will allow for the first kinetic studies of biological reactions with millisecond time resolution under conditions of macromolecular crowding similar to those within cells.