2 PhD positions: Developing and utilizing Modular Organ-on-Chip technology

Updated: about 1 month ago
Deadline: 30 Sep 2021

The BIOS Lab-on-a-Chip chair ("Miniaturized systems for biomedical and environmental applications") aims at the research and development of Lab-on-a-Chip (LOC) systems. The Applied Stem Cell Technologies (AST) group aims to use (stem) cell culture models to make patient-specific replicas of the human body, so that every patient can get tailor-made therapy. Both groups are embedded within both the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology and the TechMed Institute of the University of Twente. MESA+ is one of the world's largest nanotechnology research institutes; and it's the largest research institute in this field in the Netherlands. TechMed is the University of Twente's research centre for Biomedical Technology and Technical Medicine. The institutes combine their research efforts in the domain of organ-on-a-chip in the [Organ-on-Chip Center Twente](https://www.utwente.nl/en/mesaplus/research/centres-of-expertise/oocct/) (OoCCT), a center of expertise that focuses on organ-on-chip development and application.

Research in this project will be part of the "SMART Organ-on-Chip: Standardized open Modular Approach to Recapitulate Tissues" project funded by the Dutch government (NWO-AES). This project is a continuation of our recently published work, see the following links for details:

  • [Modular operation of microfluidic chips for highly parallelized cell culture and liquid dosing via a fluidic circuit board](https://www.nature.com/articles/s41378-020-00216-z)
  • [Translational organ-on-chip platform](https://top.hdmt.technology/)
Job specifications:

Organ-on-Chip (OoC) is a game-changing approach in which human cells are cultured in microfluidic chips simulating and predicting the response of healthy and diseased human tissues. OoC has the potential to revolutionize today's biomedical testing procedures that often involve ethically challenged animal testing and, most importantly, lead to variable results. Despite its promise, OoC adoption is hampered by profound technical and functional limitations. In this multidisciplinary project, engineers and biomedical researchers join forces with 26 end users to overcome these limitations by developing a novel,

S

tandardized, open and

M

odular OoC

A

pproach to

R

ecapitulate

T

issues ("SMART OoC").

The current landscape of OoC technology is highly fragmented, with many different chips, sensors, devices, and readouts that are not or only partially compatible with each other. Developers of OoC technology have no common standards to use in the development of new prototypes and products. This means that technical solutions can typically only be applied in a narrow subdomain of the field of OoC, after which they have to be re-developed and adapted to be applicable for other subdomains. As a result of this fragmented development, it takes a lot of time and effort for users of OoC technology to combine and integrate the available technical solutions into an OoC that is suitable for their desired application. Such OoCs are typically difficult to work with, have a low throughput, and lack the 'plug-and-play' automated control that is needed for widespread adoption. These shortcomings are widely acknowledged and detrimental for the successful development and application of OoC.

Position 1: SMART docking plate development:
The main goal of this project is to further develop the existing prototype technology as described in [this article](https://www.nature.com/articles/s41378-020-00216-z) of a 'plug-and-play' microfluidic docking plate with microfluidic building blocks (like OoCs, but also other basic functionality such as sensors, mixers, and reservoirs) into a fully functional SMART docking plate, specifically focusing on (1) internal fluidic routing between chip modules and (2) electrical interfacing for technical chips with electrical functionality. The activities within this position will relate to advanced microstructure design, prototyping, and manufacturability, as well as microfluidic valve design, and sensor integration.

Position 2: Integrating docking plate, chip modules, and readout technology:
The SMART OoC project will develop several parts, including the SMART docking plate as mentioned above, as well as various OoC and sensor (readout) modules that are clicked onto this plate. It is your aim in this position to develop prototypes of the SMART docking plate that are 'fit-for-purpose' and that work seamlessly with the various modules that will be connected to them. You will work with users (both at the University of Twente and at other partner institutes) to implement these SMART docking plates and associated systems in the relevant research settings. You are expected (1) to develop and establish the SMART docking plate as an 'open technology platform' in that it will be easy for developers and users to participate in its development and implementation, (2) work with project partners to demonstrate functionality of the SMART OoC platform in studying inflammation and fibrosis in various organs (e.g. heart, skin, joint).


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