December 1, 2008

New cell analysis platform developed by Sandia researchers now available for licensing, partnerships

Fully developed research tool supports rapid, precise, efficient, and multiplexed analysis of individual cells, providing a systems-level understanding of cellular behavior

Thomas Perroud examines a MICA chip
Sandia researcher Thomas Perroud examines a MICA chip. MICA enables researchers to precisely target, sort, and measure samples as small as a single cell in an automated system that includes flow cytometry (Photo by Randy Wong). Download 300dpi 3.99MB JPEG image (Media are welcome to download/publish this image with related news stories.)

Livermore, Calif. — Sandia National Laboratories is seeking commercial partners to license or contribute to the continued development of a new lab-on-a-chip platform for high-throughput manipulation and interrogation of individual cells, one that enables quantitative analysis of cellular behaviors with unprecedented speed, resolution, sensitivity, and multiplexing.

The Microscale Immune and Cell Analysis (MICA) platform is an extremely versatile tool that can facilitate study of a wide variety of cellular processes. It has consistently demonstrated its value in initial applications at Sandia, which have focused on elucidation of immune cell responses to potentially deadly microbial pathogens.

MICA seamlessly integrates cell culture and handling, cell stimulation (e.g., introduction of a pathogenic challenge), fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS), flow cytometry, high-resolution imaging, and antibody-based proteomic analysis. All experimental manipulations are carried out at the microscale and are fully automated, providing exquisitely precise control over each cell and its environment. The closed-system format lends itself well to applications in which containment is desirable (e.g., work with dangerous pathogens). Moreover, because microscale experiments consume vanishingly small amounts of cells and reagents, MICA can be used to investigate cellular processes that have proven impossible or impractical to study at conventional scale.

MICA offers a broad array of benefits over alternative approaches:

Top and bottom of a single-cell MICA platform array and cell sorter
Top and bottom of a single-cell MICA platform array and cell sorter that are mounted in a microscopic plate (Photo by Sandia National Laboratories). Download 300dpi 345KB JPEG image (Media are welcome to download/publish this image with related news stories.)

“The promise of MICA is immense,” said Glenn Kubiak, director of biological and materials sciences at Sandia’s Livermore, Calif., laboratory. Many of the lab tools used today to study cellular behavior, he said, fall short in speed, throughput, ease, and selectivity.

The fully developed MICA platform will provide unparalleled access to realms of biological research that we are only beginning to explore, particularly with respect to systems-level analysis of the behavior of individual cells.

Additional information on MICA, including fact sheets, technical papers, and information on partnering with Sandia, can be found at

Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin company, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.

Sandia news media contact: Mike Janes, (925) 294-2447