12/2: Don Ingber speaks at MIT on biomimetic microsystems

December 2, 2010


On Thursday December 2, Professor Don Ingber of Harvard’s Wyss Institute will be giving a talk at MIT on “Biomimetic Microsystems Technologies: Organs-on-Chips” as part of theMicro/Nano-technology Seminar Series. The talk will be held at 3pm in MIT Building 1 Room 190.


Ingber is known for his pioneering work on cell mechanics. In addition he recently founded theWyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering to encourage the development of transformative biomaterials and biodevices.  The institute has a strong focus on microfluidics and bioMEMS/microsystems.


Abstract: Lab-on-a-chip technologies that contain living cells offer exciting new approaches to attack fundamental questions in biology, create smart medical devices, and positively impact human health. In this lecture, I will introduce Harvard’s new Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering that I now head. The Institute seeks to develop materials and devices that will transform healthcare and create a more sustainable world by emulating the way Nature builds. Institute Faculty and expert technical staff collaborate in high-risk research and technology development, inspired by the superior design strategies living systems use to adapt and compete for survival. Our Biomimetic Microsystems Platform uses microfabrication approaches to engineer miniaturized three-dimensional devices containing human cells, mimicking the parenchymal tissues, blood vessels, tissue-tissue interfaces and mechanical microenvironment of living organs.  Examples of these organ mimetics include an “Artificial Spleen” blood cleansing device for sepsis therapy, and a “Breathing Lung-on-a-Chip” device that provides a new way to study the biological effects, inflammatory responses and transcellular transport of environmental toxins, nanoparticles, cytokines and pathogens on lung airway epithelium and vascular endothelium under mechanical conditions that mimic physiological breathing.  These novel biomimetic microsystems technologies offer entirely new device-based approaches to accelerate drug development and toxin screening, and to enhance clinical care.


As the abstract above mentions, an example of their work on biomimetic microsystems is the “lung-on-a-chip” device (shown in the video above) that was published earlier this year in Science. The group used a thin PDMS membrane to mimic the alveolar/capillary interface that exists inside a real lung; on one side of the membrane they seeded lung epithelial cells, while on the other side of the membrane they seeded vascular endothelial cells. The porosity and mechanical properties of the PDMS membrane create a more realistic lung-like environment in which to study the cells, since the membrane can stretch and move, much as real lung tissue moves when you breathe. Biomimetic microsystems like these could provide researchers with the flexibility to design more informative experiments at lower cost.

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