Microfluidics is plumbing at the microscale - controlling fluids in channels with a diameter comparable to a human hair or smaller. We are a research team using micro- and nanofluidic systems to study biological interactions and automate complex processes for biomedical applications.
Traditional medical treatment of various cancer types can be more destructive than beneficial since the treatments come with a great cost of reduced quality of life; some procedures, such as chemo or radiation therapy, may even cause lethal side effects.
Another widespread disease, diabetes mellitus I, is as of today an incurable disease. Patients with the diagnosis are dependent on frequent insulin supplements due to malfunctions in the insulin-producing beta-cells found in the pancreas. Other individuals struggle with fragile bones due to a syndrome called osteoporosis.
The projects aim to develop materials for more sophisticated treatment procedures enabling localized cancer treatment, long-lasting insulin supplements, as well as bone regeneration by application of droplet-based microfluidic devices (Fig. 1). By utilizing the biocompatibility and gel formation features of the polysaccharide alginate, scaffolds for drug- and cell-encapsulation can be synthesized for cancer, diabetes type I and osteoporosis treatment.
Lab-on-a-chip for exosome isolation
Exosomes are nano-sized vesicles (30-100nm) secreted by many types of cells. These cell membrane surrounded structures contain proteins and RNA-molecules (fig. 2) that can provide vital diagnostic information.
Exosomes can be non-invasively obtained from body fluidssuch as blood, saliva, urine, semen, synovial fluid andbreast milk. The pathological relevance of exosomes has yet to be fully elucidated, but they have been suggested to be involved in multiple cellular functions including intercellular communication, antigen presentation, and transfer of oncogenic proteins as well as mRNA and miRNA, the contents depending on their cell of origin.
Isolation and proper molecular profiling of membrane-derived vesicles are expected to represent a large potential in screening the population. Exosomes can yield up to 60 times greater concentrations of high integrity RNA compared to that extracted directly from blood. Proper screening programs can potentially discover abnormal states before invasive cancer is developed. The current protocols for isolation of plasma membrane derived vesicles and exosomes are based on either ultracentrifugation, polymer assisted precipitation or immunoaffinity capture using specific antibody-coated magnetic bead separation. These are time consuming and demanding in terms of personnel and reagents, making them unfit for low resource settings. However, emerging micro/nano fabrication techniques can enable development of new filtration platforms with great potential for point-of-care diagnostics.