Our group is working on microfluidic chip technologies to integrate two very different organ types, namely spheroid cultures and plant roots:
- Spheroids-On-Chip: Spheroids are clusters of cells, which mimick physiological tissues while retaining the advantages of in vitro cell culture in terms of simplicity and reproducibility. Within a spheroid, a few hundred cells form strong cell-cell contacts and synthesize extracellular matrix and thus, spheroids resemble the mechanical and communicational microenvironment of a tissue. Spheroids are therefore becoming popular 3D in vitro tissue models for high throughput pharmacology and toxicity studies. My group is focusing on culturing, stimulating, and differentiating spheroids formed by pre-adipocytes or pancreas progenitor cells into cell types of the corresponding tissue on chip. Our goal is to understand signal transduction and the contribution of the 3rd dimension in differentiation processes. Finally, spheroid cultures should be used to obtain cells to tackle diabetes with replacement therapies. To obtain signaling data we adopt the same technologies as for 2D cell cultures (see Signaling Topic) for deep tissue analysis.
- Plants-On-Chip: For the concept Plants-On-Chip we developed a microfluidic chip capable to germinate, grow and stimulate in parallel fashion roots of the model organism Arabidopsis thaliana. Integration of the living root system on chip allows to simulate and screen rapidly environmental conditions as drought- and salt stress or nutrient deprivation. Furthermore, the platform allows highthroughput imaging of the the roots over a time period of hours to a week. Currently, we couple this platform to next genration sequencing to identify genes related to drought stress and enable new engineering approaches for crops.