The use of microfluidic platforms in biology is increasing rapidly. However, the development and use of such devices for plant biology has been lagging behind. In a few instances, microfluidic devices have been used to study pollen tube growth and moss development.

Recently, the development of a microfluidic device that allows plant roots to grow under microscope controlled conditions has been a breakthrough for plant cell biology. With such platforms, it is possible to grow roots under microscope and apply treatments by micro-perfusion, limiting stress and allowing long term and high-resolution imaging. While such devices have proven to be useful to track cell divisions or monitor pH in roots using fluorescent sensors, they lack important functionalities such as the ability to illuminate the shoots and to mimic soil mechanical constraints on roots.

Regeneration is used for vegetative propagation of efficient plant genotypes, as well as after plant transformation, for genetic modification or genome editing. Current regeneration protocols involve manual transfer of cells between plates containing phytohormones to induce the formation of roots, shoots or somatic embryos. Miniaturizing this procedure in microfluidic devices would open new possibilities and a precise monitoring of cell differentiation and regeneration at higher throughput.

Despite the multiplicity of their potential applications, microfluidic devices have been underused in plant biology and plant biotechnology. Thus, this DIM ELICIT project funded aims to foster the use of microfluidics in the field of plant sciences for both fundamental and applied research. To this end, we are setting-up a microfabrication unit dedicated to soft lithography, for applications in the study of : root development and response to stress as well as plant cell differentiation and embryo development.