Development of microfluidic 'organ on chip' platforms

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy


Microfluidics, also known as Lab on a Chip, is an emerging technology in which tiny volumes of liquid are manipulated inside a device containing interconnecting networks of micron sized channels. Microfluidics is a multidisciplinary technology and has found many applications in medical diagnostics, forensic and environmental analysis and chemical and biochemical synthesis. More recently, microfluidics has been employed for advanced tissue engineering in which tissue or whole organ mimics have been developed inside micro-devices in order to study tissue function, disease progression or rapid drug screening. Examples include 'lung on a chip,' 'brain on a chip' and 'Gut on a chip' and have been described as the future in medical research for personalised medicine but also for minimising animal testing.

The project overview:
This project will involve the development of cutting edge 'cancer on a chip' microdevices for the study of disease and assessment of novel therapeutics. Part of the project in the first instance will be to identify and establish suitable disease model in collaboration with colleagues in the School of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health. The research will cover different levels of tissue complexity, from single cell systems to full 'tumour on a chip' models investigating behaviours such as metastases and invasion to rapid screening of novel therapeutics. The project will involve aspects of fluid modelling and microchip design and microfabrication as well as cell handling and culturing.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509681/1 30/09/2016 29/09/2021
1950938 Studentship EP/N509681/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2021 Matthew Bourn
Description Progress so far has seen the development of two organ-on-chip microfluidic systems for the investigation of microbubble mediated drug delivery to colorectal tumours. The first system models solid tumours in a series of microfluidic traps, allowing for the testing of drug dleivery under physiological rates of flow. Subsequent investigation using this system has found that microbubbles increase drug efficacy and penetration when co-delivered as free drug or in a conjugated liposomal formulation. Results from these experiments are currently under consideration for publication.
The second on-chip system is a more complex model that is aiming to incorporate vascualture into tumour cultures. This allows for investgation of drug delivery through blood vessels into the surroudning tumour tissues. So far, fully perfusable vasculature has been achieved on-chip and experiments are beginning with bursting microbubbles and observing increased permeability and cell death.
Exploitation Route The vasculature on-chip system being development is a versatile system that can be used to investigate various drug delivery methods. This system is a massive improvement on the 2D cell culture models often still used and carefully recreates many of the physiological features of an in vivo capillary vessel bed.
Sectors Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

Description Development of a vasculature on-chip system for the study of endothelial cell properties 
Organisation University of Leeds
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Our research contribution primarily consisted of supplying the microfluidic device used for this investigation. The design was one which I had been developing and optimisng for sometime.
Collaborator Contribution Our collaborators were based in medicine at the Wellcome Trust Brenner building and their group had been investigating angiogenesis and vessel formation off chip. Their main contribution was the supply of GFP transfected endothelial cells from speicific batches determined to be optimal for vessel formations.
Impact This collaboration has yet to produce any publications. This collaboration is partially multi-disciplinary. I am based in both Physics and Medicine whereas the collaborators are purely medicine.
Start Year 2018