Exclusive Liquid Repellency: An Open Multi-Liquid-Phase Technology for Rare Cell Culture and Single-Cell Processing

Chao Li, Jiaquan Yu, Jennifer Schehr, Scott M. Berry, Ticiana A. Leal, Joshua M. Lang, David J. Beebe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The concept of high liquid repellency in multi-liquid-phase systems (e.g., aqueous droplets in an oil background) has been applied to areas of biomedical research to realize intrinsic advantages not available in single-liquid-phase systems. Such advantages have included minimizing analyte loss, facile manipulation of single-cell samples, elimination of biofouling, and ease of use regarding loading and retrieving of the sample. In this paper, we present generalized design rules for predicting the wettability of solid-liquid-liquid systems (especially for discrimination between exclusive liquid repellency (ELR) and finite liquid repellency) to extend the applications of ELR. We then apply ELR to two model systems with open microfluidic design in cell biology: (1) in situ underoil culture and combinatorial coculture of mammalian cells in order to demonstrate directed single-cell multiencapsulation with minimal waste of samples as compared to stochastic cell seeding and (2) isolation of a pure population of circulating tumor cells, which is required for certain downstream analyses including sequencing and gene expression profiling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17065-17070
Number of pages6
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number20
StatePublished - May 23 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
*E-mail: djbeebe@wisc.edu. ORCID Chao Li: 0000-0002-1126-0655 Author Contributions C.L. and J.Y. contributed equally. C.L. and J.Y. designed the research. C.L., J.Y., and J.S. conducted the experiments, and all authors interpreted the data; C.L., J.Y., S.M.B., and D.J.B. wrote the manuscript, and all authors revised it. Funding This work is funded by National Science Foundation grant (EFRI-MKIS), Prostate Cancer Foundation Challenge Award, University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center Cancer Center Support Grant P30 CA014520, NIH R01 EB010039 BRG, NIH R01 CA185251, NIH R01 CA186134, NIH R01 CA181648, EPA H-MAP 83573701, University of Wisconsin State Economic Engagement & Development (SEED) Research Program, Wisconsin Partnership Program Collaborative Health Sciences Grant, and The Creating Hope Fund at the UW Foundation. Notes The authors declare the following competing financial interest(s): The authors have potential conflicts of interest related to technologies as presented here: J. Yu holds equity in Stacks to the Future, LLC. D. J. Beebe holds equity in Bellbrook Labs LLC, Tasso Inc., Stacks to the Future LLC, Lynx Biosciences LLC, Onexio Biosystems LLC, and Salus Discovery LLC. S. Berry and J. Lang hold equity in Salus Discovery LLC.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Chemical Society.


  • cell culture
  • liquid repellency
  • rare cell
  • single cell
  • underoil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science (all)


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