Research

Our primary research interest is in microfluidics and biosensors for biology and medicine. Novel experimental approaches are employed to study cellular biomechanics and biophysics in many aspects of pathological processes. The results revealed by these studies will be used to seek new treatments for infectious, blood and vascular diseases in human, such as malaria and sickle cell disease. We are primarily interested in the areas of:

  • Microfluidics & biosensors for live cell analysis: microfluidic chips, hypoxia chip, deformability cytometry, impedance cytometry
  • Cell biomechanics & biophysics: mechanobiology, blood cell mechanics and fatigue, cell biophysics
  • In vitro disease models: organ-on-a-chip, blood circulation, placental malaria
  • Water absorption in polymers and composites


1. Sickle Cell Disease Diagnosis and Monitoring: Portable Smart BiosensorsMicrofluidic Assays

Key personnel: Jia Liu , Darryl Dieujuste, Yuhao Qiang 

A single mutation in the β-globin gene results in production of abnormal sickle globin (HbS), leading to sickle cell disease (SCD). HbS polymerizes into rigid fibers under low O2 tension, causing deformed, rigid red cells (known as cell sickling) and leading to abnormal blood rheology and vasooccclusive crisis, hemolytic anemia etc. Cell sickling can serve as a quantitative assessment of the efficacy of chemotherapy, gene editing and therapy that target HbS and its polymerization, directly and indirectly. We develop and validate microfluidics-based in vitro assays for label-free characterization of sickle cells and cell sickling process in controllable oxygen tensions. Assessment of cell sickling (i.e. its associated characteristics such as  cell morphological change, deformability, flow behavior in engineered capillary structures) can be achieved rapidly (~ few min) with small sample volume (~ few µL) in microfluidic platforms, using cell-imaging and electrical impedance-based techniques.

Cell Sickling Process under Hypoxia

Cell Sickling Induced Capillary Obstruction

Cell Sickling Detected by Electrical Impedance

Cell Sickling Detected by Portable Smart Biosensor

 

2. Dynamic and Fatigue Analysis of Healthy and Diseased Red Blood Cells

Key personnel: Yuhao Qiang, Jia Liu, Darryl Dieujuste

Red blood cells experience a tremendous amount of shearing, stretching and bending as they circulate through the body. Progressive damage occurs in the circulating cells before they are removed and replaced with new ones. Much of the research on cellular biomechanics focuses on a single application of load, which does not reproduce the dynamic repetitive loading that the cells experience in the body. This research will use a new microfluidic tool to apply repetitive cell loading to create a fundamental understanding of the mechanical origins of damage in circulating red blood cells. The results will provide quantitative links between cellular biomechanics and cell biology, thus advancing our understanding of the significantly shortened lifespan of transfused red blood cells and those made abnormal by diseases.

 

3. Placental Malaria

Key personnel: Jia Liu , Babak Mosavati

The primary goal of this project is to develop in vitro placental model with real-time sensing capabilities for study of human placental pathologies, using microfluidics, placenta-on-a-chip and microsensing technologies. We will demonstrate the capabilities of the proposed platform with Plasmodium falciparum placentalmalaria model. Important pathological events, including sequestration of infected erythrocytes (IE), placental trophoblast inflammatory and perfusion responses will be evaluated and monitored in real time and under flow conditions.



4. Water Absorption and Mechanical Strength of Polymer Matrix Composite Materials Containing Voids

Key personnel: Mustafa Ayanoglu, Evan Tian, Kalpani Nisansala Udeni

Voids and porosity are detrimental structural imperfections in polymer matrix composite materials, not only due to strength reduction, but they provide extra paths for water absorption and filling beyond moisture diffusion in matrix. This project specifically addresses the fundamental problems of the interferences between structural defects, moisture uptake, and mechanical strength and fracture mechanisms of underwater composite materials. 

 

Kindly supported by

NSF_Logo

CMMI – Biomechanics and Mechanobiology (BMMB)

CMMI – Mechanics of Materials and Structures (MoMS)

IIS – Smart and Connected Health (SCH)

 

NICHD

NHLBI

NIBIB

 

FAUI-SENSE

OURI

TechFee

Research Mentoring Award