Single-cell analysis (SCA) has been increasingly recognized as the key technology for the elucidation of cellular functions, which are not accessible from bulk measurements on the population level. Thus far, SCA has been achieved by miniaturization of established engineering concepts to match the dimensions of a single cell. However, SCA requires procedures beyond the classical approach of upstream processing, fermentation, and downstream processing because the biological system itself defines the technical demands. This review characterizes currently available microfluidics and microreactors for invasive (i.e., chemical) and noninvasive (i.e., biological) SCA. We describe the recent SCA omics approaches as tools for systems biology and discuss the role of SCA in genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics, and fluxomics. Furthermore, we discuss applications of SCA for biocatalysis and metabolic engineering as well as its potential for bioprocess optimization. Finally, we define present and future challenges for SCA and propose strategies to overcome current limitations.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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