Principal investigator: Moses Noh

University: Drexel University

Industry partners: Aptagen

Aptagen, LLC is a leading biotechnology company offering aptamer (synthetic antibody that can bind to any molecule they're targeted at) products and services as research reagents, diagnostic and biomarker discovery tools. Aptamers are an emerging technology that is poised to become the next evolution in diagnostics and drug discovery. Aptagen plays a leading role in developing aptamer technology that will assist in the treatment and diagnosis of various diseases. One of the growing needs in the company’s R&D process is rapid and inexpensive cell sorting (e.g. cells bound by aptagens and cells without aptagens). Currently, they heavily rely on fluorescence-activated cell sorter (FACS) analysis conducted at an external facility.

The Noh group at Drexel University has been exploring dielectrophoresis (DEP) as a potential cell separation/sorting mechanism for over a decade. They have gained both theoretical and experimental expertise in dielectrophoretic manipulation of cells. It seems to be highly feasible to separate cells bound by aptagens and cells without aptagens based on their distinct DEP responses.

This project will create a great opportunity for these two teams to work together to address the specific need of the company for a rapid and inexpensive cell sorting technique. If successful, this project will lead to new product development and bring process innovation to the company. There are two main tasks in this project. First, we will investigate how the aptamer binding affects the DEP behaviors of cells. This knowledge is currently unavailable. Second, we will develop new cell sorting devices by constructing 3-D electrode systems using readily available metal wires and meshes. For example, we can construct a net with metal meshes (to be used as DEP electrodes) to fit into tissue culture plates for rapid and effective cell separation/sorting (hence the name "The Cell Net").