In a major breakthrough in stem cell research, researchers in Swinbourne University have found that stem cells can be used in various diseases like heart disease, brain damages, creating new organs and even heredity diseases. However researchers also said that they have to find ways to create ideal environment in which the cells can work properly. Researchers are still working on it. Little larger than a microscope slide, the microfluidic chips will contain tiny bioreactors, fed by microfluidic ‘plumbing’ that will supply controlled quantities of nutrients and cell growth factors from on-board reservoirs, mimicking the natural milieu in which stem cells replicate and differentiate into other cell types in the body’s tissues and organs– sources said.

Professor Gu, of the researcher team,said that their aim is to design the cell in a way that can be used by all and can be maintained at almost no cost. Prof Gu says the chips will help researchers determine the conditions required to maintain embryonic and adult stem cells in an undifferentiated state, and how to control their differentiation into other cell types. Microfluidic chips will allow researchers to conduct complex experiments under highly controlled conditions that would normally require costly, large-scale cell-culture equipment and monitoring devices.

The technique, called two-photon ionisation focuses a high-energy femtosecond pulse laser into the target substrate material which can be made from metal, glass or polymers. At the point where the laser beam is focused the energy from the laser ionises the material, effectively removing it from the substrate. This method enables microscopic resolution features to be fabricated in the substrate which can be used as a master mold from which multiple copies can be replicated. Professor Gu says the femtosecond lasers can also etch tiny optical gratings or 3D photonic crystals into the material that are extremely sensitive to optical changes in the cell microenvironment, such as changing temperatures, pH levels or other conditions in the bioreactor – including changes in the cells themselves. Researchers also said that the research can be fruitful for commercial purpose also as drug developers can test experimental drug on stem cells or differentiated cell lines.
Source: Swinburne University