To sign up for this cluster, use Bison code L.27367.
Important note: students G&T (Health and Applied Technology) use L.27366.
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This cluster consists of the following projects:

Chip alignment

Detection of diseases in body fluids, such as blood, saliva, or urine, can be done much faster with so-called lab-on-a-chip solutions. Such chips are coated with a bio-active layer, which binds to the biomarker to be detected. Next, a sensor on the chip can measure the changes from this binding and give a result, typically within a few minutes. In the NanoBio and NanoPhysics, group research is conducted with a large number of industrial partners to develop such solutions using photonic chips. In this kind of chips, light is used to detect the changes. The advantage is that these devices are very sensitive and thus can detect very low concentrations. At the same time, the light source (a diode laser, which is outside the chip) and structures on the chip need to be very accurately aligned for the chip to work properly. The NanoPhysics Group is working together with the Mechatronics Group to develop a method for this alignment.Please note that a separate 3S project is proposed by the Mechatronics Research Group on this subject. In this 3S project, you shall be working on a separate problem that is needed to get a good starting point for this alignment procedure. Because the light source needs to be aligned with the (photonic) input channel on the chip, its location needs to be known accurately. Because the chip needs to be protected from environmental influence, it will be placed in a package. Therefore, the challenge is to design a chip package and a process to place the chip inside it such that the input channel is at a fixed point (relative to one of the edges of the outside of the package) within narrow margins. The whole solution will have several parts:

  1. The design of a chip package that gives sufficient protection to the chip, but also allows accurate positioning.
  2. The design of the acceptor slot (where the packaged chip is inserted). In combination with the chip package the slot should provide accurate and reproducible positioning.
  3. Develop a method to find the input channel on the chip automatically, so that the chip can be positioned with sufficient accuracy in the chip package.
  4. The whole solution should have the possibility for scaling up to high volumes in the future.
Microfluidics Platform

Lab on a chip systems promise a revoltion for medical testing, with fast portable and on the spot results. This means that bedside testing in the hospital, direct test results at a GP’s office or even on the road in an ambulance become possible. In the development of new chip systems, there are two levels: it’s either a fully integrated chip system which is expensive to make and hard to change afterwards, or a tubing based system of all separate components which is far from protable. What is missing is a middleground solution akin to an electric breadboard (like for instance Arduino systems), where components can be swapped out relatively easy and all the pumps, sensors and actuators are small enough to be portable. A previous project between the University of Twente and industry already made a start in this direction resulting in a first prototype. The start of this project is to build on this by first testing the prototype of the previous project, to see what works, what might need improving and possibly what is missing. To do this, the aim of this project is to build a demonstrator which can select and pump 3 different liquids in a random sequence and flow them over a sensor surface. The final demonstrator should contain everything for the operation of the system within a small volume of 1-2 liters. Only a power cord and (wireless) data communication are allowed with the outside.

Breast cancer research on a chip – Metastasis on a chip

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, affecting millions of women. Initial research was mainly focused on the primary tumour. However, women don’t die from the initial tumour, but due to secondary tumours, formed via metastasis. Therefore, research focuses nowadays on studying the interaction between the tumour cells and their tumour micro-environment (TME). The tumour micro-environment consists of different cell types (e.g., tumour associated macrophages), extra-cellular matrix (ECM), biochemical (e.g., hypoxia, lactate, pH, …) and mechanical factors, which all play a role in tumour progression and metastasis. Moreover, the TME is involved in the transition of epithelial cells towards a mesenchymal genotype/phenotype, which is an essential step in tumour migration. EMT causes loss of cell-cell adhesion, which enables tumour cells to migrate. Different models have been used to study the interplay between the tumour cells and the TME. Lab-on-a-Chip (LOC), and especially Organs-on-a-Chip (OOC), has the potential to mimic the in vivo situation and therefore serves as an excellent model to study the role of the TME in tumour biology. The first goal of this Smart Solutions Semester project is to analyse the influence of different factors (biological, chemical and/or mechanical) from the TME on the EMT and metastasis of tumour cells (= ‘technology push’). For this, the group defines an experimental set-up in which this interaction can be best studied, using LOC technology. The second goal of this Smart Solutions Semester is study what the application of LOC technique is for the medical field, focusing on breast cancer diagnosis and therapy (= ‘demand-push’). Hence, what do oncology specialists need what the LOC technology can provide. For this, a case study needs to be perfomed to obtain the demands, for which a device will be developed. Ideally, this device will be a complete platform, consisting of an easy-made/cheap chip (made by FabLab), which contains all the necessary side-apparatus within the platform (e.g. fluidic connections, sensors, …). The deliverables of this project are quite diverse, and contain a LOC to study the role of the TME in tumour progression, a case study and a LOC platform, which can be used outside the reasearch/laboratory setting to provide direct care for breast cancer patients. In the end, the results of this Smart Solutions Semester project will uplift breast cancer research and LOC technology from which the patient will benefit.

CytokineSens – developing new technology for sensitive detection of cytokines in blood

Early diagnosis of complex diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and arthritis, improve treatment efficacy, increases chance of curation and lead to a significant cost reduction. However, current methods for detection of relevant biomarkers are not sensitive enough. We have developed a new platform technology that can measure biomarkers in 10 to 100 times lower concentration in comparison to current laboratory tests. The goal of the voucher is to develop this test further for clinical application and to demonstrate proof of concept by measuring biomarkers for the differential diagnosis of complex arthritis diseases. As a first step, an antibody panel needs to be developed to measure the desired biomarkers sensitively and specifically. This will be tested on a Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) instrument that is available at Saxion. The antibodies need to be selected, tested and validated for each biomarker in buffers. Subsequently, in collaboration with Medisch Spectrum Twente (MST) and the University of Twente (UT), validation experiments will be performed of the antibody panels in complex bodily fluids, such as serum and plasma.

BEAT-IT – Heart on a Chip

Drug development at present is a very expensive and inefficient process, which is largely due to the dependence on preclinical tests with animals that cannot fully capture human physiological responses. As an example, it takes an estimated 10-15 years and $5 billion to bring a new drug to the market. $ 3.2 billion of this is spent on preclinical research and development phases, involving experiments using a large number of animal models and animal-derived cell lines. However, animal tests cannot accurately predict how the human organ and body will respond to a new drug because of the inherent differences between human and animal physiology. More than 30% of drug formulations that look promising during preclinical (animal) studies end up being toxic to humans and fail human clinical trials. The human heart is of particular interest, as one-fourth of the drug formulations that fail are related to heart diseases. According to statistical data, cardiac diseases are the most common causes of death of humans around the world. In most cases, heart transplantation is the only way to treat patients. However, the lack of a donor and the response of the immune system preclude the treatment in a huge number of clinical cases. Organ-on-a-chip technology, utilizing true human cells cultured in perfused microfluidic devices, holds great promise to revolutionize pharmaceutical drug testing for heart-related diseases and personalized therapy in the context of ‘precision medicine’. In particular, it is anticipated that organ-on-a-chip technology can substantially replace animal models for drug testing and will enable more predictive, cheaper and more reliable (standardized) assays for biomedical science and drug testing. The main goal of this project is to fabricate a fully integrated device to culture and pace heart cells and electrically monitor the cellular activity and drug responses, which can serve as a platform to ease drug development as well as study heart diseases.

HiLoCo Diagnostic kit

Sensors based on nanotechnology have the potential to perform quick and simple, yet complete diagnoses outside a laboratory infrastructure at relatively low costs. Devices with such capabilities allow general practitioners and home care professionals and even patients carry out early tests, for example to early detect cancer in blood or urine. To make such devices affordable, realiable optical coupling between the desposible photonic sensors and the active components (light source and detector) need to be made. The coupling of light from the source to the photonic sensor chip and back to the detectors requires a micrometer positioning accuracy. The main challenge is, therefore, accurate alignment of the active and the desposible photonic sensor. The main goal of this assignment to develop a high tech, low cost and compact mechatronic test setup with active alignment mechanism in order to create the coupling between the active and the desposible part quickly and resproducibly. The assignment also involves the selection of compact and high performing sensors/actuators and development of an automatic alignment routine.

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Questions about this cluster?

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