Biochips for wound healing
Professor Peter Ertl carefully holds the tiny biochip, which he developed at the TU WIEN, with two fingers. The integrated structures, despite their inconspicuous appearance, can produce measurement data, which up until now required an entire lab plus highly qualified staff. Medical examination results thus become available much quicker and at a much lower cost - a decisive step in the direction of personalized medicine. The team from TU WIEN will now present a chip at the international biotechnology and laboratory exhibition Labvolution in Hanover, by means of which wound healing can be precisely examined.
Simpler, quicker, less expensive - size matters
“Medicine often relies on prognoses that are solely based on statistical means”, says Peter Ertl. “However, it would be of great importance to develop more personalized approaches, which consider specific physical and molecular particularities of the affected individuals.”
Valuable insights for the diagnosis can be generated by extracting a person’s cells and multiplying them in a conventional cell culture, before analyzing them. The CellChipGroup at the TU Wien develops miniaturized systems which not only make this procedure simpler and less expensive, but in addition, deliver physiologically more accurate results. By means of very small channels - the so-called microfluidics - essential biological conditions including temperature, pressure and flow rates are beingreproduced, thereby providing the most realistic environment possible for the cells living on the chip.
With these cells, mechanical strains and injuries can be simulated, which are then emulated lifelike on the chip with the help of integrated actuators. This revolutionary technology makes it possible to examine the healing process accurately and reliably.
The CellChipGroup developed the miniaturized wound healing system to obtain personalized insights into the effectiveness and / or the side effects of medication. Directly in the chip a so-called ‘cell layer’ develops, which is then inflicted with small wounds in a controlled, standardized and reproducible way - similar to conditions of real life. Pneumatically moved membranes punch small round holes into the healthy cell layer, with precisely defined diameter and high precision.
Not only the wounding process itself can thus be explored on the biochip, but it can also be studied accurately how the wound closes by itself, how the cells’ migration rate behaves and, most importantly, which medication improves and accelerates the wound healing process.
“In contemporary medical research the examination of cell cultures under the microscope is a standard task”, says Peter Ertl. “Until now, the lack of reproducibility had been a problem. With our biochip, however, it has now become stunningly simple to conduct the exact identical tests repeatedly, so that the results can be directly compared.”
Rapid prototyping for medicine
Decisive for the development of such biochips is the experience with complex biological issues, along with technical know-how in micro fabrication. “If we are talking about a ‘lab on a chip’, we are dealing with quantities of liquids in the range of microliters”, says Peter Ertl. “The physical behavior of these liquids is quite different from the way we are used to from everyday life applications.”
Apart from microfluidics, the CellChipGroup at the TU Wien also deals with numerous other technologies, indispensable for ‘lab on a chip’, including lithography, casting technology, hot stamping and micro-injection molding. Numerous biochips made from different polymers or from glass/polymer hybrid materials are being fabricated at the TU Wien. “The combination of different scientific fields and our long standing, practical laboratory experience allows us to realize the entire process: from the initial idea of a company partner to the fully functioning prototype - in fact, within a few days or weeks. This is ‘rapid prototyping’ for biomedicine”, explains Peter Ertl.
TU Wien with its 4,800 faculty members and 30,000 students is Austria’s largest university of science and technology. TU Wien is a research-oriented university combining intensive basic research with high engineering competence and close cooperation between the different disciplines.
Vienna University of Technology is by far the largest Austrian contractor within the EU-Research programmes. The total volume of projects, which are raised from enterprises and competitive research funds amounts to close to 40% of the state’s basic funding.
TU Wien not only delivers research-results but new technologies, ready for market. At Labvolution 2017 innovations are presented by the institutes of:
- Applied Synthetic Chemistry
- Chemical Technologies and Analytics
- Applied Synthetic Chemistry
For scientific questions please contact:
Prof. Peter Ertl
Institute for Chemical Technologies and Analytics
Getreidemarkt 9, 1060 Vienna, Austria
Regarding the presentation of TU WIEN at the Labvolution 2017:
Peter Heimerl, Dipl.-Ing.
Karlsplatz 13, 1040 Vienna, Austria
Dr. Florian Aigner
Operngasse 11, 1040 Vienna, Austria