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MICA logo. Microscale Immune and Cell Analysis (MICA), Studying immunity - one cell at a time.
Thomas Perroud examining chip

Sandia National Laboratories researchers Michael Sinclair (foreground) and David Haaland prepare a hyperspectral confocal microscope for measurement of a biological specimen.
The new microscope, shown on the left, was designed and fabricated at Sandia.
(Photo by Randy Montoya)

Microscale Immune and Cell Analysis

The Challenge

The future of biological research lies in understanding both the actions of single cells and the interactions of these cells with their environments.

However, many of the laboratory tools used today to study cell actions fall short in speed, throughput, ease, and selectivity. Such tools usually lack equipment for quantitation or single-cell resolution, and they typically fail to provide a systems-level perspective. In addition, the precise, time-consuming manual manipulations called for by most current experimental procedures all too often result in lost opportunities and errors.

A Revolutionary Capability

To address this challenge, researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have created a sophisticated integrated platform for single-cell manipulation and interrogation.

Called Microscale Immune and Cell Analysis (MICA), this platform represents a revolutionary breakthrough in biological research. MICA offers experimenters the ability to understand cell behavior at the molecular and cellular levels with unprecedented speed, resolution, sensitivity, and multiplexing.

Unlike other lab-on-a-chip platforms, MICA helps researchers target, sort, and measure samples as small as a single cell in a precise, automated system that incorporates flow cytometry. And because MICA is based on microfluidics, it enables biological measurements that are impossible at a conventional scale.

The promise of MICA is immense. MICA has already proven its value in a major Sandia research program that is investigating the response of immune cells to pathogens. When fully developed as a research tool, the MICA platform may enable scientists to integrate experimentation on myriad cell types, thereby providing a systems understanding of multiple cellular mechanisms that have long eluded researchers.


When fully developed, MICA promises to facilitate advances in multiple areas:

  • Drug discovery and therapeutics. High information-content screening, evaluating how drug candidates behave with specific cell types in real time.
  • Diagnostics. Observing and sorting abnormal cells, enriching rare cell types.
  • Personalized medicine. Monitoring the behavior of individual patient cells.
  • Immune and infectious disease. Observing the mechanisms of infection.
  • Biomarker discovery. Identifying and quantifying specific proteins (e.g., cytokine profiling).

Learn more about MICA and how you can benefit from its unique capabilities: