The traditional tools used today to culture human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) have led to significant hope, but limit their full potential. Newer technologies that could make cultures more consistent, easier to optimize, and healthier would be tremendous boons not only to basic research, but also for drug testing, diagnostic tool development, and clinical therapies across the field.
An emerging technology with this potential is microfluidics. Microfluidics employs the concepts and engineering used to make the electronic chips in our televisions and computers, but instead applies them to make miniaturized devices for controlling fluids. Together with innovations developed by our research team, microfluidics provides opportunities for improving hESC cultures that would be impossible otherwise.
Our team has been able to use microfluidics to culture neural stem cells, a project that now has ongoing federal and state funding. In the course of this project, we have developed new and highly versatile microfluidic devices that are simply added onto traditional cultures, and a new method for identifying dying cells in live cultures. These microfluidic and imaging tools give us the opportunity to make hESC cultures more consistent, easier to optimize, and healthier. These are the goals of our proposal.
The goal of this project is to use a new technology, known as microfluidics, to improve human embryonic stem cell (hESC) cultures in multiple ways. The general improvements we hope to achieve (making hESC cultures more consistent, easier to optimize, and healthier) should have relevance and applications across the entire hESC field. Thus, if successful, this project should have many benefits to the State of California and its citizens, including to potential consumers, pharmaceutical companies, basic scientists, and others working on diagnostic tools and therapies.