Third Annual SoCal Micro and Nano Symposium

Past Tides
December 5, 2016 By Lalisa Stutts

SoCal Micro/Nano Symposium

September 1st and 2nd

This year’s annual Micro and Nanofluidics Symposium, hosted at UCI, was opened and closed with remarks from UCSB Prof. Sumita Pennathur. She emphasized that the goal of this closed-door symposium series is for researchers to freely share their innovative ideas and latest discoveries to inspire and help each other. Over the course of the two day symposium, researchers from UCI, UCLA, and UCSB Schools of Engineering gathered to attend presentations from invited speakers, UCI Prof. Elliot Botvinick and UCSB Prof. Luke Theogarajan, as well as other faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows.


UCI Prof. Elliot Botvinick described his group’s work in the area of device therapeutics for diabetes. Inspired by the human pancreas, Prof. Botvinick seeks to create an implantable device for housing pancreatic islets, the specialized cell clusters responsible for regulating glucose levels in the entire body. The aims of their research are to create a framework that promotes natural blood vessel integration and a secure, nutrient-rich environment for implanted pancreatic cells to thrive in. The elegant methodology and “mini-pancreas” device is currently under development and preliminary testing. Prof. Botvinick remarked that his primary competitor was simply “time” and that he was eager to discuss and collaborate with the room’s microfluidic experts to conquer his competitor and achieve the final, efficiently-working iteration of his invention.


UCSB Prof. Luke Theogarajan then presented on one project area in his lab, identifying circulating tumor cells (CTCs) using microfluidics. CTCs are critical biomarkers in cancer diagnosis and assessment of progression. Prof. Theogarajan, an electrical engineer by training, collaborated with UCI biophysicist, Prof. Zuzanna Siwy, on this current work. Employing a microfluidic platform and electrical rheology (here, the study of how cells flow through a channel in response to electronic signals), they have demonstrated that the mechanical properties of CTC are different relative to other cell types. This fundamental aspect may be exploited and applied to liquid biopsy technologies for detecting cancer.

Among those that shared their innovative research projects throughout the two-day symposium were members of the DiCarlo lab at UCLA, the Hui and Khine labs at UCI, and the Plasko and Pennathur labs at UCSB. Unsurprisingly, these cutting-edge labs are focusing their efforts on fundamental aspects of micro and nanosystems, such as chemical gradients within and fluid flow through microchannels, to understand and apply towards novel solution technologies in the areas of high-throughput drug discovery, diagnostics, biosensors, and beyond.

The fourth annual symposium will be held next fall in Santa Barbara, CA.


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