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Microfluidic trapping chip for culture and assay of cell clusters

Diabetes has a massive disease burden worldwide. Despite advances in care, patient morbidity and mortality remain high and there is a need to develop new therapies that improve clinical outcomes. In healthy individuals, beta cells found within pancreatic islets secrete insulin in response to stimuli to help regulate glucose levels; in diabetic patients, this regulatory system doesn’t function properly. Studying pancreatic islets is therefore a critical aspect to understanding diabetes and developing new therapies.

This invention integrates a microfluidic chip design with dynamic glucose stimulation and insulin sensing for continuous monitoring of beta cell performance. This design offers several advantages over current islet testing methods:

  • The glucose concentration can be varied, better mimicking the dynamic range that beta cells experience in the human body than a static assay.
  • Islets are automatically captured in parallel channels in the microfluidic chip, allowing for simple assay set up and simultaneous stimulation.
  • Insulin response is quantified in-line via fluorescence anisotropy, shortening the processing time associated with conventional enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs).
  • The design is scalable and compatible with commercial fabrication methods.

This device can be used to screen cadaveric or engineered cells before pancreatic islet transplantation, replacing screening methods that have not been improved in decades. Additionally, it could help advance clinical therapies by facilitating testing of insulin-stimulating compounds or cell therapies and studying disease biology. The versatile device design also allows for stimulants other than (or in addition to) glucose to be tested.

This work was recently published in Lab on a Chip and the Harvard Gazette.

Intellectual Property Status: U.S. Patent(s) Issued: WO2017/087759

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