Sangeeta Bhatia and micro-liver chips on NOVA

Last week Professor Sangeeta Bhatia was featured in a fantastic profile on NOVA’s scienceNOW. Bhatia is recognized as a pioneer in bioMEMS and directs the Laboratory for Multiscale Regenerative Technologies at MIT. Although Bhatia’s work explores a wide range of topics, she is most well-known for her development of micro-livers-on-a-chip. Primary liver cells are notoriously difficult to maintain in culture, and Bhatia found that cultured liver cells lived longer when spatially arranged into patterns. To arrange the cells, she took the innovative leap of adapting micropatterning technology from computer chip manufacturing.

Lately the Bhatia lab has also been in the news for their work on using nanotechnology tobattle cancer. One of the biggest problems with current cancer therapies is their harsh side effects; the drugs are non-specific and kill healthy cells along with the cancer cells they are designed to target. Student Geoffrey von Maltzahn and Bhatia worked to develop nanoparticles that could be delivered specifically to the tumor site to kill cells via local application of heat or chemotherapeutics. Based on this work, von Maltzahn recently won the Lemelson-MIT prize for innovation and has founded two companies, Nanopartz, Inc andResonance Therapeutics.