Stem cell niche engineering through droplet microfluidics
Stem cells reside in complex niches in which their behaviour is tightly regulated by various biochemical and biophysical signals. In order to unveil some of the crucial stem cell-niche interactions and expedite the implementation of stem cells in clinical and pharmaceutical applications, in vitro methodologies are being developed to reconstruct key features of stem cell niches. Recently, droplet-based microfluidics has emerged as a promising strategy to build stem cell niche models in a miniaturized and highly precise fashion. This review highlights current advances in using droplet microfluidics in stem cell biology. We also discuss recent efforts in which microgel technology has been interfaced with high-throughput analyses to engender screening paradigms with an unparalleled potential for basic and applied biological studies.