Droplet microfluidics allows the isolation of single cells and reagents in monodisperse picoliter liquid capsules and manipulations at a throughput of thousands of droplets per second. These qualities allow many of the challenges in single-cell analysis to be overcome. Monodispersity enables quantitative control of solute concentrations, while encapsulation in droplets provides an isolated compartment for the single cell and its immediate environment. The high throughput allows the processing and analysis of the tens of thousands to millions of cells that must be analyzed to accurately describe a heterogeneous cell population so as to find rare cell types or access sufficient biological space to find hits in a directed evolution experiment. The low volumes of the droplets make very large screens economically viable. This Review gives an overview of the current state of single-cell analysis involving droplet microfluidics and offers examples where droplet microfluidics can further biological understanding.
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