Microwells are popular single cell-level culture platforms where small wells of tens of microns in size are able to hold only one cell or cell pairs according to the scope. Arrays of these wells are useful to separate cell populations and culture or image them. However, these wells are monolithic and normally engraved in the material. Recovering selected cells of interest can be done via micromanipulation techniques, but it results in an operationally complex process that is expensive, time-consuming, low-throughput and difficult to automate.
Technology Overview
This invention describes reversible microwells where the well shape is formed by the suction of a thin deformable membrane. This allows single-cell level capture, assay, and subsequent well reversibility upon release of suction. The selective release of the thin membrane displaces the cells of interest and exposes them to an easier recovery either by the simple application of flow or by automated micromanipulation.
More advanced versions include the combination of the reversible microwells module with a top module for the detection of cell secretion. The top module can be in the form of a glass slide patterned with captured antibodies for proteins of interest. Alternatively it can be in the form of fibers holding microbeads coated with capture antibodies.
- Recovery of selected cells by micromanipulation is substantially easier due to the cells not being trapped in the microwells and instead are floated on the surface. 
- This invention enables automated micromanipulation.
- Recovery of selected cells is substantially more user-friendly and cheaper and do not require complex and costly precision handling equipment.
- Single-cell analyses of immune cell: tumor cell interactions and subsequent on-demand release of cells with known functional activity 
- Screening of secretions at the single‑cell level and subsequent on-demand release of cells with known secretion levels
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Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Vaibhav Saini
Senior Manager Commercialization
Northeastern University
Giovanni Ugolini
Tania Konry
Healthcare Innovation
Singe cell