LSI awarded NSF grant to develop cell sorting technologies

LSI awarded $500,000 from the NSF Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (CBET) for “Ultra-fast transient cell adhesion and its application for high-throughput microfluidic cell sorting”. Our co-PI’s are Dr. Alexander Alexeev (associate professor, The George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering) and Todd Sulchek (professor, The George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering).

Summary | Biological cells use adhesion molecules on their surfaces to interact with each other and their environment. The type, amount, and combination of these adhesion molecules, which carry important information about specific cell conditions, can be used to characterize cells and diagnose disease.

This project will develop a microfluidic technology that enables rapid and efficient sorting of biological cells based on the expression of adhesion molecules without the use of any tags or labels. The technology utilizes a microfluidic channel with periodic constrictions coated with molecules that briefly interact adhesion molecules on the cells’ surfaces. The interaction causes a change in the trajectories of the cells of interest without inducing unwanted activation.

The project will investigate the mechanics of cell interactions within the microchannel and will probe the use of this microfluidic separation technique to isolate lymphocytes with highly specific adhesion molecules that can be used in cancer therapies.

The research will involve undergraduate and graduate students, and the team will conduct several outreach activities to students at all levels, including developing projects for science and engineering competitions.