The application process for The Prototyping Grant 2019 has now been closed.

Kathy Jean Schultz

Being Able to Build Human Blood Vessels as Organoids from Stem Cells is a Game Changer

Being Able to Build Human Blood Vessels as Organoids from Stem Cells is a Game Changer

The more that is learned about how microfluidic processes control or contribute to cellular change, the sooner science will be able to design a cost-effective medical treatment based on that information. New research on microtubules and blood-vessel organoids augments this.

Recent findings by a team of engineering and medical scientists at Stanford University shed new light on how cell components move around and self-renew. Part of the study’s focus was on the link between microtubules and self-organization. (more…)

Microfluidics Drives Real-Life Applicability of Organoid Advances

Microfluidics Drives Real-Life Applicability of Organoid Advances

Microfluidic engineering advances sustain organoids and fuel the growing stream of organoid uses. As tiny replicas of human organs, organoids are generated layer-by-layer from stem cells, and realistically vascularized by microfluidic systems, enabling life-like blood flow and other fluidic systems. Stem cells nurtured under specific three-dimensional conditions have produced organoids that replicate the architecture of the organ from which they were derived. (more…)

Microfluidic Environments Nurture Stem Cells on Their Journey Toward Commercialization

Microfluidic Environments Nurture Stem Cells on Their Journey Toward Commercialization

The name “stem” cells came from plant stems, which, despite their tiny size, have the capacity to produce flowers, leaves, branches, fruit, vegetables, and gigantic trees. In the same way, stem cells, although microscopic, contain the potential to develop into different body parts — to repair or replace diseased or injured cells. Stem cells can differentiate, which means they can become a retina or pancreas cells, skin cells or shin cells, cells specific to the nose or to the toes. Stem cells are sustained by a microfluidic environment of supporting blood vessels and channels for other fluids. And a stem cell’s microfluidic environment influences the decision about what body part it will become. (more…)

Recent Microfluidics Advances, on Earth and Above It

Recent Microfluidics Advances, on Earth and Above It

Harnessing the potential of microfluidics applications is underway in every corner of the globe, and stretching out to deep space as well.

In Japan, cancer researchers are building microfluidic chip cell sorters for capture and analysis of Circulating Tumor Cells (CTC), an endeavor that historically has ranged from challenging to impossible. Their “On‐chip Sort” detected and captured rare CTCs from patients with lung adenocarcinoma, which have typically been undetectable. Mutation detection using isolated CTCs is their next goal. (more…)

As Microfluidic Systems Come of Age, Both Rough Waters and Smooth Sailing Lie Ahead

As Microfluidic Systems Come of Age, Both Rough Waters and Smooth Sailing Lie Ahead

A Most Frequently Asked Question is posed in the May 2018 Cell Science headline: “Will Microfluidic Cell Culture Fulfill its Long-awaited Potential?” The article notes that the first research papers on microfluidic cell culture are now nineteen years old: “Microfluidic cell culture has now outgrown its infancy and is about to survive its teenage years. It has matured considerably but still needs to transition from academia into clinics and industry. Will it come of age?” Now that it’s ready to exit adolescence, how will it leave the academic nest? (more…)

Liver Organoid Progress Brings New Perspective

Liver Organoid Progress Brings New Perspective

The liver is the largest internal organ in the human body, and it fuels equally large dilemmas. The quandary of the liver transplant system, when there is only one organ donor but two terminally ill people who need it, is this: how are decisions made about who lives and who will die? Who “deserves” a liver transplant more?

That’s the plot of the play Patience, which premiered in 2017 in Edinburgh. Inspired by actual patient experiences, Patience unravels the struggles facing decision-makers in the organ-transplant universe. Two women in need of a transplant, and the doctor who must decide which of them will get it, are the main characters. One patient is a young woman with autoimmune hepatitis, whose life is riddled with hospitalizations. The other is a recovering alcoholic. (more…)

Seeing Is Believing: Tissue-Chips on the Quest to End Blindness

Seeing Is Believing: Tissue-Chips on the Quest to End Blindness

In 2007, Doug Oliver nearly hit two pedestrians while driving his car, and then turned a corner and almost hit a third. He had not seen the pedestrians at all. A police officer gave him two choices: hand over your driver’s license or see an eye doctor. The doctor gave a chilling diagnosis: “At 45, I was legally blind. I went into shock,” Oliver said.

Oliver was born with good eyesight, but due to a hereditary condition, over a decade he had gradually lost much of his vision. For years his sight had been worsening until he underwent experimental stem cell surgery in a Florida-based treatment study. His vision loss was reversed by that surgery in 2015. “I went from legally blind to legal-to-drive in eight weeks,” said the Nashville, Tenn., man. (more…)

Organs-on-Chips and Animal Lovers: Dovetailing on the Medical Frontier

Organs-on-Chips and Animal Lovers: Dovetailing on the Medical Frontier

The impact of organoid research on popular culture is nowhere more evident than in the common ground between innovation and animal rights proponents. Organs-on-chips harbor the potential to reduce animal testing of new drugs and cosmetics. In 2017, the U.S. National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences funded 13 institutions with awards to develop tissue-on-chip models. Several of the awards mirror four-legged friends’ enduring goals. (more…)

We Have Liftoff: Organs-on-Chips in Space

We Have Liftoff: Organs-on-Chips in Space

When British neuroscientists began developing brain organoids to study autism and schizophrenia some years ago, their colleague Dr. Martin Coath, of the University of Plymouth, publicly stated that they were fueling a crisis: “A human brain that was ‘fully working’ would be conscious, have hopes, dreams, feel pain, and would ask questions about what we were doing to it.”

Fears akin to Coath’s have trended ever since Mary Shelley wrote “Frankenstein” in 1818. While it is unlikely that organoids will be asking what we’re doing to them anytime soon, it is likely that they will be doing some space traveling. (more…)