Analytical and Bioanalytical

Cancer evolution. Chemotherapy can select for subclonal populations of cells, thus creating refractory disease, resistant to the initial treatment. However, obtaining a complete picture of the genetic variability extant in tumor tissue can require the analysis of thousands of individually isolated cells. We are developing a dielectrophoresis (DEP)-based device with a high yield of single-cell capture in an array of microfluidic chambers for PCR-based analysis. The outcome of this research will be a clearer understanding of the role of clonal selection in cancer relapse.

Tumor metastasis. In a key step to metastasis, cells migrate out of the primary tumor and into the bloodstream (intravasation). A fraction of these circulating tumor cells (CTCs) invade tissues (extravasation) distant from the primary site. We aim to uncover conditions that promote metastasis by developing microfluidic platforms for 1) high-throughput CTC isolation, 2) genetic analysis of individual CTCs, and 3) interrogation of the interaction of CTCs with on-chip tissue cultures that mimic blood vessel walls. The result of this research will be an understanding of the metastatic process leading to better-targeted treatments aimed at its prevention.

Kidney disease. Between dialysis sessions, patients suffer from fluid retention and a gradual increase in blood concentration of excess salts and waste products such as urea. This process leads to both significant discomfort and eventual lung and cardiac damage. Existing devices require large fluid reservoirs and suffer from biofouling caused by direct contact between blood and membranes. We are developing a membrane-free reservoir-free device for reduction of excess fluid and urea using a series of electrokinetic processes. Our aim is to develop a wearable, battery-powered device.

Point of Care. By exploiting synthetic chemistry, we have succeeded in developing Magnetic Ionic Liquids (MILs) that exhibit low miscibility in water while also retaining sufficient magnetic susceptibility. Currently, we are interested in developing additional classes of MILs that can be used for the selective extraction of analytes in complex environmental and biological samples.

Pharmaceutical. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have imposed stringent regulations on the amount of Genotoxic Impurities (GTIs) present in pharmaceuticals. GTIs are compounds that can induce genetic mutations, chromosomal breaks, and/or chromosomal rearrangements in humans. Additionally, these compounds can also exhibit potential carcinogenic activity. Although GTIs that enter human body may come from drug substances, excipient, degradients, or metabolites, the major source of GTIs is usually active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) manufacturing, which may require the use of genotoxic reagents, solvents, and catalysts. Thus, monitoring the presence of various GTIs in drug substances is of great importance for the pharmaceutical industry.

Petrochemical. Multidimensional gas chromatography (MDGC) is an extremely valuable tool for the separation, detection, and identification of volatile and semi-volatile constituents in many complex samples. A typical MDGC separation employs two or more gas chromatographic separations in a sequential fashion. In order to achieve a significant improvement in resolution power, the stationary phases employed often possess different selectivities. Until recently, commercial poly(siloxane)- and poly(ethylene glycol)-based stationary phases have been widely applied in MDGC separations. However, their solvation characteristics and thermal stabilities are often limited for particular classes of compounds, such as those complex mixtures often found in the petrochemical industry.

Renewable energy is no longer a choice but a must in our society. High-resolution mass spectrometry can help to make better biofuels by characterizing molecular details of the complex bio-crudes. We are the pioneers in this field and successfully analyzed thousands of compounds in the bio-oils, deciphering pyrolytic fragments of lignin and cellulose.

Clean energy. Demonstrate Raman spectroscopy analyses of biomass, enzymatic catalysis, nanomaterials and thin films. These objectives are accomplished through a combination of analytical measurements, instrument and method development. 

Disease complications. Understanding the molecular events in the cell membrane that can lead to disease complications in cancer and diabetes. Accomplished by measuring the organization and dynamics of cell membrane components using a variety of fluorence imaging techniques.