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Department of Chemistry: Microfluidics and fiberoptic detection

Microfluidics and fiberoptic detection are researched by Dr. Bossmann and Dr. Culbertson at the Department of Chemistry, Kansas State University

Dr. Stefan H. Bossmann and Dr. Christopher Culbertson in the Chemistry Department of Kansas State University are very excited by many of the possibilities that combining microfluidics with lab-on-a-chip and fiberoptic detection technology offers. In their highly interdisciplinary and collaborative projects, their teams are working together to develop this technology into a versatile miniature analysis lab.

Microfluidic Device and Fiberoptics
A. 3D chip rendering showing the various chip components. B. When an intact cell passes under the fibre, components in it are excited by light emitted from the fibre and then light emitted from the cell is detected through the fibre. C. Image of intersection where cells moving vertically are lysed and the lysed components of the cell are injected into the right horizontal channel. D. The cell lysate is detected under this arm of the fibre optic.

Microfluidic devices are inherently well-suited to interrogate biological processes as the micrometer channel size conveniently corresponds to the size of cells (1 to 100 micrometers). Their channels can not only be used to provide a highly controlled environment for cell growth but also to separate and to lyse cells, as well as to separate cell organelles (mitochondria and nuclei). The cell lysate (or organelle lysate) can then be analysed using fluorescent nanobiosensors that are absorbed by the cells prior to lysis. With support from the National Science Foundation (Arlington, VA, USA) Culbertson and Bossmann have developed a generation of novel microfluidic devices that incorporates three on-chip pneumatic pumps that are used to transport cells into a channel intersection where the cells are rapidly lysed using an electrical current. The lysate is electrophoretically injected into a separation channel where the analytes are separated via electrophoresis. The lysate components are detected using laser induced fluorescence (LIF) in an epi-illumination setup. The device also incorporates an optical fiber bridge that allows for the monitoring of cell lysis, lysate injection, and the separation of the labelled lysate components using only a single excitation source and detector. Their technology will, for the first time, offer profiling sufficiently rapid that it could be used to monitor a patient’s response to disease treatments. Such a devise will also have the unprecedented ability to perform other kinds of cell analysis, in combination with the team’s work to design and synthesise new designer peptides to report cell activities, such as proteolytic profiles for early cancer detection.