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    ABSTRACT: Current progress in tissue engineering is focused on the creation of environments in which cultures of relevant cells can adhere, grow and form functional tissue. We propose a method for controlled chemical and topographical cues through surface patterning of self-folding hydrogel films. This provides a conversion of 2D patterning techniques into a viable method of manufacturing a 3D scaffold. While similar bilayers have previously been demonstrated, here we present a faster and high throughput process for fabricating self-folding hydrogel devices incorporating controllable surface nanotopographies by serial hot embossing of sacrificial layers and photolithography.
    Microelectronic Engineering 04/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: We demonstrate a microfluidic platform for the controlled aggregation of colloidal silver nanoparticles using surface acoustic waves (SAWs), enabling surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) analysis of oxidative damage in cells. We show that by varying the frequency and the power of the acoustic energy, it is possible to modulate the aggregation of the colloid within the sample and hence to optimise the SERS analysis.
    Chemical Communications 03/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: Microactuation of free standing objects in fluids is currently dominated by the rotary propeller, giving rise to a range of potential applications in the military, aeronautic and biomedical fields. Previously, surface acoustic waves (SAWs) have been shown to be of increasing interest in the field of microfluidics, where the refraction of a SAW into a drop of fluid creates a convective flow, a phenomenon generally known as SAW streaming. We now show how SAWs, generated at microelectronic devices, can be used as an efficient method of propulsion actuated by localised fluid streaming. The direction of the force arising from such streaming is optimal when the devices are maintained at the Rayleigh angle. The technique provides propulsion without any moving parts, and, due to the inherent design of the SAW transducer, enables simple control of the direction of travel.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(2):e42686.
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    ABSTRACT: Ultrasonics offers the possibility of developing sophisticated fluid manipulation tools in lab-on-a-chip technologies. Here we demonstrate the ability to shape ultrasonic fields by using phononic lattices, patterned on a disposable chip, to carry out the complex sequence of fluidic manipulations required to detect the rodent malaria parasite Plasmodium berghei in blood. To illustrate the different tools that are available to us, we used acoustic fields to produce the required rotational vortices that mechanically lyse both the red blood cells and the parasitic cells present in a drop of blood. This procedure was followed by the amplification of parasitic genomic sequences using different acoustic fields and frequencies to heat the sample and perform a real-time PCR amplification. The system does not require the use of lytic reagents nor enrichment steps, making it suitable for further integration into lab-on-a-chip point-of-care devices. This acoustic sample preparation and PCR enables us to detect ca. 30 parasites in a microliter-sized blood sample, which is the same order of magnitude in sensitivity as lab-based PCR tests. Unlike other lab-on-a-chip methods, where the sample moves through channels, here we use our ability to shape the acoustic fields in a frequency-dependent manner to provide different analytical functions. The methods also provide a clear route toward the integration of PCR to detect pathogens in a single handheld system.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 09/2012; 109(38):15162-7.
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    ABSTRACT: Cellular response to microgrooves is addressed using a new assay format, comprising orthogonal gradients of continuously varied groove pitch and depth. Dual layer etch masks are created using a combination of micropatterning and plasma polymer deposition. A silicon substrate with a constant groove width of 8 μm and with ridge width increasing from 8 μm in 0.5 μm steps across 10 mm is fabricated by photolithography. A plasma-polymerized hexane film which is 120 nm thick at one end of these grooves, and 10 nm at the other, is deposited under a diffusion mask. Reactive etching of the patterned sample transfers a gradient of groove pitch and groove depth into the silicon substrate. A silicon master with a gradient of groove depth spanning more than two orders of magnitude (less than 10 nm to over 1000 nm) is used to create an injection molding inlay for mass replication of the screening topography. Polycarbonate replicas are molded for use in cell culture studies, and the functionality of the topography as a high-throughput screening platform is investigated. The response of MDCK, h-TERT fibroblasts, and LE2 endothelial cells is examined, in terms of attachment and morphological response to the variation in topographical cues, with the aim of pinpointing the optimal combination of groove pitch and depth to elicit a tailored response from each cell type. When the range of topographical features screened on a single substrate is considered, this new assay represents a significant step forward in the parametric design and analysis of topographical cues at the biomaterial interface.
    Small 06/2012; 8(16):2541-7.
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    ABSTRACT: Bringing droplets to life: A cytoskeletal protein (red dots, see scheme) is expressed in artificial cells composed of biocompatible polymersomes, which encapsulate expression machinery and amino acid building blocks. Release of the expressed proteins can be triggered by a negative osmotic shock.
    Angewandte Chemie International Edition 05/2012; 51(26):6416-20.
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose: People with spinal cord injury (SCI) experience bone loss and have an elevated rate of fracture in the paralysed limbs. The literature suggests an exponential time course of bone loss after SCI, but true rates may vary between patients. We propose systematic evaluation of bone status in the early stages of SCI to identify fast bone losers. Method: A case series of six patients with complete SCI were scanned using peripheral quantitative computed tomography within 5 weeks and at 4, 8 and 12 months post-injury. Bone mineral density (BMD) and bone mineral content (BMC) were measured at fracture-prone sites in the tibia and femur. Patient-specific-predictions (PSP) of expected rates of bone loss were produced by individualising published model equations according to each patient's measured values at baseline. Wilcoxon Signed-Rank tests were used to identify changes between time-points; chi-squared tests for differences between measured and PSP values. Results: In the lower limbs, mean values decreased significantly between baseline and 8 months post-injury, by 19-31% for trabecular BMD, 21-32% for total BMD, and 9-29% for BMC. Most subjects showed no significant differences between PSP and measured values, but individuals with significantly faster rates of bone loss than predicted should be investigated further. Conclusions: There was considerable intersubject variability in rates of bone loss after SCI. Patients showing the fastest bone loss could benefit from continued follow-up and possibly treatment. [Box: see text].
    Disability and Rehabilitation 05/2012; 34(26):2242-50.
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    ABSTRACT: MreB is a structural membrane-associated protein which is one of the key components of the bacterial cytoskeleton. Although it plays an important role in shape maintenance of rod-like bacteria, the understanding of its mechanism of action is still not fully understood. This study shows how segmented flow and microdroplet technology can be used as a new tool for biological in vitro investigation of this protein. In this paper, we demonstrate cell-free expression in a single emulsion system to express red fluorescence protein (RFP) and MreB linked RFP (MreB-RFP). We follow the aggregation and localisation of the fusion protein MreB-RFP in this artificial cell-like environment. The expression of MreB-RFP in single emulsion droplets leads to the formation of micrometer-scale protein patches distributed at the water/oil interface.
    The Analyst 03/2012; 137(13):2939-43.
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    ABSTRACT: We demonstrate the cell-free expression of the actin-like protein MreB and observed its preference to localize and aggregate at the membrane interface of a water-in-oil-in-water droplet as happens in vivo. These monodisperse microdroplets were produced on a large scale using microfluidics. We suggest a possible use of this platform for theory validation in fundamental biological studies.
    ChemBioChem 03/2012; 13(6):792-5.
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    ABSTRACT: We demonstrate the use of a phononic crystal to enable the nebulisation of liquid droplets from low-cost disposable arrays, using surface acoustic waves (SAW). The SAWs were generated using interdigitated transducers (IDT) on a piezoelectric surface (LiNbO(3)) and the acoustic waves were coupled into a disposable phononic crystal structure, referred to as a superstrate. Using its excellent reflecting properties, the phononic structures confined the acoustic field within the superstrate, resulting in the concentration of the acoustic energy, in a manner controllable by the excitation frequency. We show that this capability mitigates against coupling losses incurred by the use of a disposable superstrate, greatly reducing the time needed to nebulise a drop of water with respect to an unstructured superstrate for a given power. We also demonstrate that by changing the excitation frequency, it is possible to change the spatial position at which the acoustic energy is concentrated, providing a means to specifically nebulise drops across an array. These results open up a promising future for the use of phonofluidics in high-throughput sample handling applications, such as drug delivery or the "soft" transfer of samples to a mass spectrometer in the field of proteomics.
    Lab on a Chip 03/2012; 12(7):1268-73.
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Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers Part H Journal of Engineering in Medicine 12/2010; 224(12):1329-43.
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