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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/S013865/1
Title: Particle Filtration and Accumulation by Solute-driven Transport (FAST) for bio-analysis in microfluidic devices
Principal Investigator: Bolognesi, Dr G
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Claude Bernard University Lyon 1
Department: Chemical Engineering
Organisation: Loughborough University
Scheme: New Investigator Award
Starts: 01 December 2018 Ends: 30 November 2022 Value (£): 200,817
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Instrumentation Eng. & Dev.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
03 Oct 2018 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 3 and 4 October 2018 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The outcomes of many health interventions critically depend on the ability to identify the disease in a timely manner so the most appropriate therapy can be chosen promptly. Consequently, there is an immediate and growing need to develop healthcare technologies for rapid and accurate detection of bio-markers, associated with specific diseases, and/or disease causative agents, such as pathogenic microorganisms. Microfluidics and lab-on-a-chip technology offer a huge potential for the development of next generation fast and ultra-sensitive bio-analytical devices for diagnostic and therapeutic applications.

Particle handling operations - including separation, filtration, concentration, trapping and sorting - are ubiquitous in microfluidic diagnostic technologies and can ultimately dictate the speed, accuracy and selectivity of testing devices. An ideal particle handling technique would be fast (high-throughput), selective (i.e. targeting only the particles of interest), easy to integrate into a multifunctional microfluidic device and, most importantly, not reliant on the use of external fields. This proposal aims to introduce an innovative particle manipulation technique to address all these requirements. This research will also demonstrate the proof-of-concept for using this technique to develop fast and sensitive diagnostic testing devices.

Rapid filtration, trapping and accumulation of target particles within the cavities of micro-structured surfaces will be achieved in continuous flow settings by harvesting the chemical energy associated with salt contrast generated by parallel multi-component flows. The mechanisms governing the particle dynamics will be investigated through a combination of experimental and numerical techniques. The dependence of trapping and concentration efficiency on particle properties (especially size and surface chemistry) will be elucidated. The output of this study will be an optimally-designed microfluidic platform, through which two in-vitro diagnostic devices will be developed. One device will enable the rapid filtration of cell-like particles (e.g. liposomes) based on their lipid membrane composition which is an important indicator of a cell's state of health. This assay will offer new opportunities for early detection of drug induced cell death and rapid drug pharmacokinetics screening. Another device will enable the fast and ultrasensitive detection of a biomarker indicative of pathological conditions, including atherosclerosis, pancreatitis and some forms of cancers. Synthetic bio-compatible particles will be incubated in a sample solution where the specific interaction with the disease biomarkers will cause i) the fluorescent signal emission from the particle and ii) a change in particle surface chemistry. The latter effect is intended to enable the conversion of the chemical energy - stored in the form of salt contrast - into particle motion. As a result, the biomarker-activated fluorescent particles will be rapidly trapped and accumulated within target regions of the device whereas the non-fluorescent particles will remain unaffected by the presence of the salt. This will enable a massive signal amplification for the diagnostic assay and, consequently, a fast and accurate detection of biomarker concentration in the analysed sample.

In summary, this research will lay the foundation for the development of a new family of low-cost, portable bio-analytical devices based on particle filtration and accumulation by solute-driven transport (FAST) for diagnostic and therapeutic applications. These innovative and highly-sensitive diagnostic tools will enable clinicians to perform rapid and accurate diagnosis and, hence, make timely and informed clinical treatment decisions which are more likely to lead to successful health outcomes.

Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.lboro.ac.uk