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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R004382/1
Title: Thermophoretic manipulation of biocompatible soft materials properties in microfluidic devices
Principal Investigator: Vigolo, Dr D
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Chemical Engineering
Organisation: University of Birmingham
Scheme: First Grant - Revised 2009
Starts: 01 December 2017 Ends: 12 July 2019 Value (£): 99,441
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Biomaterials Complex fluids & soft solids
Materials Characterisation Materials Synthesis & Growth
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
25 Apr 2017 EPSRC Physical Sciences - April 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
In recent years microfluidics has already proven incredibly useful in tackling biological problems, from single cell analyses up to organ reproduced on-a-chip. Current biological approaches require in-vitro experiments to test preliminary hypotheses: often these synthetic environments share little to nothing with the actual environment they are trying to mimic and thus the subsequent in-vivo experiments become the only way to actually perform the necessary tests. Being able to modify the biocompatible material's properties at the length scale typical of a single cell, will open up a new set of tools enabling to perform realistic biological tests that can save time in the process of understanding the mechanisms of the development of a disease and the search for an effective cure. This is what motivates this proposal. Current challenges in the field of tissue engineering are strongly limited by the availability of functionalised biocompatible materials that can provide the optimal substrate or the scaffold to be used to guide the growth of cells. This proposal aims to exploit an innovative way to locally manipulate the mechanical, optical and rheological properties of a soft material at the micron scale, and thus develop a new class of functionalised materials. This project will exploit thermophoresis in a microfluidic environment to induce a concentration gradient in a polymeric solution by imposing a highly localised temperature gradient. The concentration gradient will then translate into a gradient of properties that I will tune and manipulate. This will enable me to generate biocompatible materials with unprecedented control over their mechanical properties where to study the proliferation and differentiation of cells, and shine light on the mechanisms of cancer invasion. One of the main objectives of this proposal is the extension of the study to biocompatible substrate where the mechanical properties are dynamically tunable. This will permit me to investigate the response to a change in external stimuli of a growing tissue and to model the dynamics of wound healing, where the characteristics of the substrate are changing while the epithelium is growing. Additionally, I will investigate the growth of cells on fibre-like and more complex structures substrates, in order to induce control the proliferation, growth and even differentiation of behaviour of specific cell lines.

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Organisation Website: http://www.bham.ac.uk