Nanotechnology

Breakthroughs in microfluidics and wearables

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April 26, 2023

(Nanowerk News) Griffith University researchers are behind some major breakthroughs on the micro- and nano-scale, with recent research finding that getting more detailed breakdowns on wearable owner’s overall health statistics may soon become a reality.

Dr Jun Zhang and Dr Navid Kashaninejad of Griffith’s Queensland Micro- and Nanotechnology Center conducted research on two current challenges in the field known as microfluidics: biosampling via nanoparticle separation; and wearable technology.

The two researchers have published their results on this work, under the guidance of QMNC Director Professor Nam-Trung Nguyen, who is well known for his research in microelastofluids.

What is micro elastofluid?

Micro elastofluidics use flexibility and flexibility to allow fluid handling leading to faster and more accurate diagnosis of health conditions.

“This technology allows for precise handling of small quantities of samples and reagents,” says Professor Nguyen.

“My research aims for medium-term impact and has moved from sensors for cars to laboratories shrinking to chips to wearable devices for health monitoring.”

For example, the QMNC research team has developed various cell-stretching devices to study cell behavior under mechanical stress. Work is ongoing on skin models, skin cancer models, colon models and vascular models.

“As a complement to this fundamental research, I recently founded a field called ‘micro elasofluidics’ which uses malleability and flexibility from the molecular to the device scale for better handling of liquid samples,” says Professor Nguyen.

“It integrates microfluidics into a flexible wearable and implantable device.”

Benefits of separating nanoparticles

Dr Zhang’s recent research focuses on the separation of nanoparticles and how they can be used to gather information about various health conditions.

Separation of the two particles, in red and green color indicates their separation in the microfluidic channel.

These nanoparticles can be extracellular ‘vesicles’, which are particles secreted by the cells in our bodies as a way to communicate.

“Extracting these particles from liquid samples such as blood will provide a lot of information about health conditions,” said Dr Zhang.

The same particles may have anti-inflammatory and anti-aging effects and could potentially serve as a therapy against aging and age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

The challenge is to separate the particles without damaging the smooth surface. Current techniques such as ultracentrifugation and ultrafiltration often destroy these particles.

Dr Zhang’s method uses a unique fluid physics phenomenon called ‘microfluid inertia’ to avoid damaging these useful but delicate particles.

“Advancements in microfluidic technology have had a significant impact on the biomedical field,” said Dr Zhang.

“Microfluidic technology offers an unprecedented ability to precisely control the movement of dissolved or suspended liquids and analytes at the microscale.”

“These analytes can be various blood cells, bacteria, viruses, DNA, RNA, proteins, glucose, lipids, etc. And precisely manipulating and detecting these tiny particles is essential for disease diagnosis and monitoring of health conditions in the human body.

“We were recently invited to publish a critical review at Labs on Chip (“Recent advances in microfluidics in the manipulation and separation of submicrons into nanoparticles”).

“We compare traditional and microfluidic methods of separating nanoparticles in this paper. Conventional techniques generally have the advantages of time efficiency, high yield, ease of use and good reproducibility, but are limited by high cost and low purity. Microfluidic technology is superior in enhanced separation resolution and is more cost effective.

“Over the last decade, significant progress has been made in microfluidic technology for separating nanoparticles with a wide range of applications, but there is still a sizeable gap to be filled. We have explored challenges and solutions to these often overlooked limitations.”

Biosamples from wearables?

Dr Kashaninejad’s research explores the collection of information on health conditions through wearable devices, using the concept of micro-elastofluids.

Currently, wearable devices such as smartwatches can only collect physical information from the wearer. Gathering information on biochemical and biological conditions is much more difficult due to the lack of ‘liquid handling’ capabilities of these devices.

Dr Kashaninejad’s research explores simple and practical solutions for fluid handling on surfaces that are flexible and conform to the skin so that solutions for subdermal sampling of sweat and body fluids can be easily investigated.

“We will find this solution in the near future in wearable devices that can provide more information about the wearer’s health condition than current smartwatches,” he said.

“Skin wearable systems for biofluid sampling and biomarker sensing could revolutionize current practices in personalized healthcare monitoring and medication.

“However, there is still a long way to go towards complete market adoption and acceptance of this exciting technology.

“My recent paper (“Microfluidic solutions for handling biofluids in skin wearable systems”) compared the various microfluidic platforms that can be used for skin-wearable devices. These platforms include semiconductor-based, polymer-based, liquid metal-based, paper-based and textile-based microfluids.

“This platform can increase the flexibility of wearable biosensors on the skin at the device level, and there are potential microfluidic solutions for collecting, transporting, and controlling biofluids.

“The adoption of finger-powered micro pumps is the perfect solution for precise, on-demand pumping of biofluids.

“There is great potential in this field, such as micro-applications of stretchable continuous-flow elastofluids, superhydrophobic stretchable surfaces, liquid beads – small capsules filled with liquid – as digital micro-elastofluids, and topological liquid diodes that have received little attention. but has enormous potential for integration into skin-wearable devices.”



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