A Fully Automated Adherent Cell Injection System for High-throughput Drug Screening

Project: Research

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Sudden cardiac death, usually arising from cardiac arrhythmias, is the leading cause of death for both male and female in Hong Kong and worldwide. The life-threatening arrhythmias are attributed to the disorders of gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC). The measurement of GJIC and screening of drugs for the treatment of arrhythmias require microinjection of fluorescent dye into single cells and monitoring the dye transferring from the injected cell to adjacent cells. Besides, microinjection is an essential technique in cell biology, life sciences, and clinical applications.  The recent progress of microrobotics has provided effective solutions for automated manipulation of single cells.The majority of the existing solutions, however, focus on the manipulation of large suspended cells and suffer from a low degree of automation, and therefore have not reached large-scale implementation.The automated manipulation of adherent cells is largely underexplored because adherent cells are highly irregular in morphology and much smaller than suspended cells, making the cell recognition challenging. Aiming to address the limitations of existing solutions and build a fully automated system for adherent cells, we propose to combine the surface acoustic waves with microrobotics for high-throughput microinjection. This new technology will be achieved by innovating the following components: (1) structural patterning of the cells via controlled surface acoustic waves, (2) automated selection of adherent cells by machine learning algorithms, (3) detection of the cell height based on microscopy feedback without the inclusion of additional sensors, and (4) reconstruction of the 3D cell morphology for optimizing the injection location and injection volume to improve the success rate and cell survival rate.  In this research, we will also apply the new microrobotic system to inject fluorescent dye into single cells. After injection, by monitoring the fluorescent signals diffused from the injected cell to the neighboring cells, the microrobotic system can measure the intercellular communication and screen the drug libraries to identify the optimal treatment for cardiac arrhythmias. With minimal modifications, the proposed research with the novel functions has a high potential to revolutionize the microrobotic cell manipulation for broader implications. The success of this project would be able to build theoretical and experimental foundations for the next-generation of microrobotic technology with minimized human intervention and increased system throughput


Project number9043157
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/22 → …