1. Integrated microdevices for cellular and molecular studies
Cells are influenced mainly by a combination of mechanical, chemical and electrical cues through their surrounding environment. These cues become particularly important when they are externally applied to the cells to conduct the cell response. For instance, how invading cancer cells can be inhibited by the cues to prevent metastasis, how an electrical signal can be externally applied to immune cells at the wound site to treat the wound and how the injured neural cells and axons can be stimulated by external cues for neural regeneration purposes.
Although significant work has been carried out to find out the chemical stimulators for directing the cell migration or growth for therapy purposes, the effect of mechanical cues on regulating the cell response is still limited due to technical challenges. Our lab is focused on studying the effects of mechanical cues on cell response at both the single-cell and the high-throughput level by developing integrated microfluidic platforms. The major biomechanical parameters include the driving growth or migratory force, the invasive force, the rigidity of the nucleus, the mechanical properties of cell membrane/ cell wall which can be addressed by integrated manipulating systems such as micro-needles, micro-constricts, microcantilevers, AFM manipulators. The effect of chemical and electrical stimulations on the biomechanics of the cells will also be investigated to find out how the mechanics of the cells can regulate the migratory or growth pattern of the cells or tissues for future therapeutic applications. The final stage is to employ the mechanical principles to develop theoretical and numerical cell models in order to predict the behavior of various cells in response to mechanical cues while the model is supported by the experimental data.
2. Biomimetic tissue models for disease modeling and drug discovery applications
We intend to combine micro/nanotechnology and tissue engineering approaches to make organ-on-chip platforms with the applications in disease modeling, drug discovery, pharmacology and tissue engineering. We develop physiologically relevant innervated tissues, skin tissues, liver tissues, vascular tissues band tumor models y integrating multilayer microfluidic chips, tissue engineering principles, and integrated biosensors and biophysical sensors. Computational models will also be coupled to the fabricated tissue to develop future predictive models. Achieving this goal would provide a tremendous advantage and reduce the need for numerous animal or human tests and will also have applications in developing therapies for injured tissues. In particular, we develop disease models like infection disease and brain injury models on chip.
3. Biosensors for Medical Diagnostics, Environmental Monitoring, and Food Safety
The BioMEMS and Bioinspired Microfluidics (BioMEMS) Laboratory will use the knowledge in microfluidics, micro/nanotechnology, surface chemistry, and cellular/molecular biology to develop innovative sensors and point-of-care devices and IVD tools for medical diagnostics with the particular focus on electrochemical sensors for detecting cancers, brain injuries, knee injuries, and infection. . This technology will also be adapted to develop portable devices for on-site detection of plant and food pathogens. We also integrate our biosensors into capillary microfluidics and centrifugal microfluidics to fully automate the sensing process. Our biosensors are also integrated into contact lens to measure diseases like dry eye, PD and AD.