A Microfluidic System for Automated Dissociation of Tissue

Case ID:

This invention is an automated system with the ability to dissociate a variety of soft biological tissues, such as those found in the heart or central nervous system, into viable single cells for culture preparation and other various uses. It includes a microfluidic device made from clear, low-cost, biocompatible materials integrated with imaging and a flow control system. The invention dissociates tissue samples into single cells in a quick and reliable manner.


For decades, manual trituration using micropipettes has been the standard method by which single neurons are isolated from neural tissue. The manual trituration process requires a significant amount of dexterity and training to perform correctly and can be both time-consuming and inconsistent. Furthermore, existent mechanized tissue homogenizers are geared towards large organs, which are incapable of dissociating tissue samples with sizes on the order of 1mm or less. In response, researchers at the University of Arizona devised an automated microfluidic-based system that utilizes oscillating flow-induced stress to obtain neurons and other types of delicate cells from parent tissues. Using this system, viable cells can be obtained with sufficient quantity from a tissue specimen that is as small as 0.5mm. Quantitative evaluations indicate that the new system yields neurons equal in quality to those isolated by manual trituration. In addition, the system has proved efficacy in working with heart tissue.



  • Neuroscience research
  • Other delicate tissues (e.g. heart tissue)
  • High-throughput drug screening
  • Lab-on-a-chip
  • Personalized medicine
  • Non-biological applications (e.g. any situation that requires delicate purification of microscopic materials like pharmacology or nanotechnology)


  • Generates neurons suitable for the preparation of cultures
  • Potential for success in working with a wide variety of tissues
  • Capable of obtaining viable cells with sufficient quantity from small-size specimen (maximum size 0.55mm)
  • Reduces the time necessary to learn and perform the trituration process via automation
  • Consistently minimizes variability in tissue dissociation for primary cell culture
  • Potential to incorporate into existing systems
  • Comprised of low-cost, sterile, and disposable materials
  • Increases precision in calibrating and controlling flow forces and other parameters compared to manual pipettes
  • Potential to automate entire process from trituration to culture
  • Reduces the prohibitive expenses associated with manual isolation 
Patent Information:
Contact For More Information:
Tariq Ahmed
Sr Licensing Manager, College of Engineering
The University of Arizona
Lead Inventor(s):
Yitshak Zohar
Linda Restifo
Linan Jiang
drug discovery
flow shear
high throughput screening (HTS)
primary neuron culture
tissue dissociation