Probing Mechanical Biomarkers with Microacoustofluidics: A Fluid-Structure Interaction Approach

Project: Research project

Project Details


PI: Costanzo, Francesco

Proposal Number: 1438126

The objective of the proposed work is to study the hydrodynamic interactions between deformable microparticles, and specifically between a micro-bubble and a cell. The idea is to create a micro-bubble using a laser next to the cell, and then use acoustic methods to obtain information about the mechanical properties of the cell. Such information would be used mainly for diagnostic purposes, but also for therapeutic purposes. This idea that a cell's mechanical properties can be used as a biomarker for pathogenic processes is currently being used to diagnose malaria, and there is some evidence that mechanical biomarkers may be used to diagnose cancer. The proposed work could lead directly from fluid dynamics research to applications. The proposed research will lead to more effective, cheaper, and faster cell-based on-chip diagnostic and therapeutic devices. As such, this research can have a major impact on public health world-wide.

Cellular mechanical properties have been found to be valuable indicators for pathogenesis and pathophysiology. This has led to the identification of a new class of biomarkers: mechanical biomarkers that offer some advantages over traditional biochemical biomarkers. While a number of mechanical biomarker-based microfluidic devices have already been proposed in the literature, the full potential of mechanical biomarkers in microfluidic-based diagnostics and therapeutics has yet to be revealed. One reason is the fact that no techniques are currently available for the quantitative assessment of cell deformability in relation to the forces acting on them. Current approaches for estimating the radiation forces on objects in streaming flows are based on classical solutions for idealized geometries (typically spheres) and small deformation of elastic inclusions in the flow. The proposed research will use computational techniques based on the immersed finite element method to advance knowledge in these areas. The goal is to relate cell deformability to the hydrodynamic forces imposed on a cell or on a group of cells in a microfluidic device. The validation of the proposed computational framework will be done against experiments with cancer cells in an opto-thermally-generated and acoustically-activated surface bubbles microfluidic device. The co-PIs propose to involve undergraduate students in research and to leverage already existing initiatives at Penn State in order to reach underrepresented minority students: the Women in Engineering Program and the Multicultural Engineering Program.

This award by the Fluid Dynamics Program of the CBET Division is co-funded by the Instrument Development for Biological Research (IDBR) Program of the Division of Biological Infrastructure.

Effective start/end date10/1/149/30/18


  • National Science Foundation: $300,000.00


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