Traditional cell biology techniques monitor large cellular populations and report dominant trends while leaving contributions from smaller cell subsets unaccounted for. Our laboratory focuses on developing novel microsystems for cell cultivation and analysis. The research thrusts in the lab may be subdivided into the following categories.
Cell and Tissue Engineering – Novel surfaces to deliver microenvironment cues to cells. We are employing microarrays of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins and growth factors to define cell-substrate interactions in a multiplexed fashion. These surfaces are used to identify growth factors that induce stem cell differentiation to a desired tissue type or to determine molecules that protect important cells (e.g. hepatocytes) during injury. In addition, we are developing micropatterned co-cultures in order to study how interactions between different cell types lead to lineage specific differentiation in the case of stem cells or tissue damage in the case of hepatocytes.
Biosensors for Cell Analysis – Biosensing approaches that allow to detect changes in cell phenotype and genotype in the context of local microenvironment. Our vision is to develop micropatterned sensing surfaces that report on changes in cell function in the context of local microenvironment. We are developing a range of biosensors including enzyme-based electrochemical biosensors, antibody-based immunosensors and aptamer-based sensors that may be integrated at the site of the cell to monitor extracellular fluxes of metabolites or signaling molecules.
Point of Care Blood Analysis – Microsystems for multi-parametric blood analysis. We are employing antibody microarrays and microfluidics to develop microdevices for analysis of leukocyte numbers and function. These inexpensive devices allow us to capture multiple leukocyte types (T-cells, monocytes, granulocytes) and to determine function of these subsets (cytokine production) based on a small volume of blood. We are exploring applications of this technology in HIV diagnosis/monitoring, immune profiling of autism and pediatric immunology.
Our work is highly interdisciplinary involving aspects of microfabrication, surface engineering, biomaterials, biosensors and cell/molecular biology.