In the “Techno” section of the Deplancke lab, we are looking for new ways to miniaturize, parallelize and optimize molecular biology techniques that may help us in dissecting and characterizing gene regulatory networks. For example, we generated large-scale protein-DNA interaction screening platforms for Drosophila (Hens et al., Nature Methods, 2011) and mouse (Gubelmann et al., Mol Syst Biol, 2013). In addition, we developed an absolute protein level quantification method using mass spectrometry to better relate transcription factor copy number to DNA binding behavior (Simicevic et al., Nature Methods, 2013).

A more recent focus of ours is to explore the capabilities of microfluidic systems given their desirable intrinsic features like low reagent consumption, biocompatibility and exquisite control over experimental parameters. Specifically, we exploit two different microfluidic technologies: multilayer microfluidics and droplet microfluidics:

  • Multilayer microfluidics was originally developed by the Quake lab at Stanford and since then became a wide research field in microfluidics. Multilayer systems have the fascinating ability to steer and control the flow of minute volumes of liquid. A remarkable feature of multilayer microfluidic systems is its capacity for parallelization, giving us the opportunity of performing microscopic experiments in a high-throughput manner. In our lab we use multilayer microfluidics for single cell trapping, cell culturing on the chip, on-chip PCR, and on-chip immunoprecipitation.
  • Droplet microfluidics gives us ability to perform high throughput droplet generation and particle trapping in nanoliter water-in-oil droplets. Using this technology we intend to expand our research to the single cell level to study gene expression dynamics in an unprecedented resolution. The flexibility of droplet microfluidics, shown to work with various cell types, bears the advantage of being able to process thousands of cells in a fast, parallel, and cost-effective manner.