Rapid advancements in science and technology have now made us act beyond just mimicking nature but understand and implement natural systems and their governing principles; that is “bio-inspiration”. Our lab’s vision is to design and develop bio-inspired technologies for applications in diagnostics, therapeutics and drug discovery. we are developing transformative nanobiomaterials and devices to address global challenges in human health such as food safety, point of care diagnostics and infectious diseases. We also develop multifunctional, smart interfaces embedded in 2D or 3D microenvironments that mimic the natural microenvironment of organs, provide qualitative and quantitative information about the immobilization of cells and/or biomolecules in an active state, minimize non-specific adhesion, and in effect guarantee reliability and performance of the final biomedical device.
We are developing novel nano-structured bio-interfaces that enable highly sensitive detection of target species while minimizing non-specific binding and noise in complex fluids such as blood, plasma and urine. We covalently micro/nano pattern different bio-species on repellant surfaces to produce bio-functional patterned surfaces. While this new technique provides us with a repellant surface which effectively blocks any non-specific attachment of biomolecules to the surface, we could benefit from its bio-functionality so as to micro/nano pattern various biomolecules on the surface. We are currently exploring various applications of these biosensing technologies with our industry and clinical partners.
Foodborne illnesses caused by pathogenic bacteria pose a significant threat to human health, with hundreds of millions of global cases annually. The associated cost of treating individuals suffering from such illnesses is well into the billions. The economic effects of foodborne pathogens are further amplified by inefficient food recalls, which occur once the source of an outbreak is determined. Methods for identifying the source of an outbreak currently rely on laboratory testing, which is laboursome and time consuming. Developing a means by which the presence of pathogenic bacteria can be monitored in real-time is essential for improved food safety. We are seeking to develop such a platform, using functional DNA molecules that provide optical signals when in the presence of target bacteria. By incorporating our sensors onto food wrap materials, real-time monitoring of food products becomes viable along the entire food production pipeline without the need to open and/or sample products.
Repellent & Antimicrobial Surfaces
This aspect of our research is focused on developing and translating pathogen and blood repelling/inactivating surfaces and coatings to mitigate the spread of infectious diseases and the performance of blood contacting medical devices. We integrate micro/nano structures induced on various surfaces along with proper surface chemistry to create omniphobic and pathogen repellant coatings. These include hierarchically structured surfaces, lubricant-infused coatings as well as omniphobic sprays that can be used for a variety of applications such as in high touch surfaces to prevent spread of infectious diseases, in blood contacting medical devices to suppress thrombosis and in implants to prevent formation of biofilms.
Organs On Chips Platforms
Organ-On-Chip devices are biomimetic microsystems lined by living cells that reconstitute the key functional and micro-environmental features of whole organs including tissue-tissue interfaces, mechanical forces, fluid flow and relevant chemical gradients. These microfluidic devices can reproduce complex integrated organ-level responses to pathogens and inflammatory cytokines, as well as nanoparticles and pharmaceuticals; they also can effectively mimic disease states and complex pathophysiological responses. Organ-On-Chip micro devices lined by human cells may therefore expand the capabilities of cell culture models and provide low-cost alternatives to animal and clinical studies for drug screening and toxicology applications. Our goal is to develop 3D Organ-On-Chip micro-devices that reproduce key structural, functional, and mechanical properties of whole organs, including the lung, gut and kidney and implement these functional devices for drug discovery as well as personalized medicine where patient specific cells are used to construct the organ function in vitro to investigate personalized patient specific treatments.
Labs on Chips
Recently, with the advances in miniaturization, Lab-On-a-Chip devices have started to play an important role for a wide range of biomedical applications such as point of care (POC) diagnostics, cell sorting, drug discovery and basic studies. A Lab-on-a-Chip (LOC) is a device fabricated using micro and nano-fabrication techniques that integrates one or several laboratory functions on a single chip of only a few square millimeters in size while consuming small biological sample volumes in the order of nano and pico liters. Reduction of time and cost of assays, precision in detection, high surface to volume ratio, portability and ability to design cellular microenvironments are the main advantages of LOC devices for cell detection and sorting. In our lab, we focus on integrating and incorporating our newly designed and engineered bio-functional interfaces into miniaturized LOC devices to enhance their efficiency for applications in diagnostics and drug discovery.
Micro/Nano Engineered Biomaterials
This research platform is focused on the design and development of bio-inspired functional materials and coatings with emphasis on integration into biomedical devices and implants. Biomedical devices span a wide range of apparatus, appliances and materials used for diagnostic and/or therapeutic purposes such as extracorporeal devices used in blood purification, point-of-care diagnostics, implants, and drug discovery platforms. The performance of all such devices relies on the effective interaction of biological entities with synthetic material. We focus on engineering the physical, mechanical, and chemical structure of the interface between biological and non-biological matter (i.e. the bio-interface) as a means for designing innovative, highly functional engineering platforms for biomedicine. More specifically we focus on designing effective bio-interfaces to minimize non-specific binding while retaining and enhancing the desired function of the bio-interface (e.g., attachment of specific biomolecules and cells, selective proliferation/differentiation of cells, avoiding biofilm and clot formation, etc).