My research interests in the laboratory involve understanding the physiology and pathophysiology of mucociliary clearance, pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis (CF) and cystic fibrosis-related diabetes (CFRD). In addition, my colleagues and I have designed a microfluidics-based organ-on-a-chip to assess those conditions.
The general goal of my research is to develop novel biosensors assessing a patient’s cell functions and cellular interactions. In my research lab, we have designed innovative patient-derived organ-on-a-chip. For example, a gut-on-a-chip, a pancreas-on-a-chip and a lung-on-a-chip enable us to analyze the patient’s cellular functions and cell-to-cell interactions with a somewhat small number of cells in a very sensitive way. We have an objective in our research to design unique biosensors on the organ-on-a-chip to observe cellular functions in real-time and develop a directed process toward personalized medicine.
One of the most typical and fatal complications in a patient with cystic fibrosis is cystic fibrosis-related diabetes (CFRD). However, the methodology of developing diabetes in patients with cystic fibrosis is not completely understood. In my lab, my colleagues and I designed a novel approach for studying CFRD by utilizing an innovative in vitro co-culturing model known as Pancreas-on-a-chip.
This model is built of two cell culture chambers separated by a thin layer of porous membrane. We have successfully co-cultured patient-derived pancreatic ductal epithelial cells (PDECs) and islets in the same chip to mimic in vivo physiology. Using this co-cultured pancreas-on-a-chip, we observed that defective cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) function in PDECs directly reduces insulin production in pancreatic islets. This research study has been published in Nature Communications 2019 and nominated as Editor’s Highlight. Furthermore, our study received national and international attention. It was featured on 34 news outlets as well as the Cincinnati TV-Channel 12 news.
As a bioengineer, I have extensive experience in micropatterning, microfluidics and 3D design. In 2016, I was enlisted by the Cystic Fibrosis-Center in Cincinnati Children’s Hospital (Pulmonary Medicine) to design a cystic fibrosis organ-on-a-chip agenda. I have utilized my specializations and training to develop the program from scratch and was the first one to create an operational patient-derived pancreas-on-a-chip.
I obtained a post-doctoral fellowship sponsored by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation from 2018 to 2021 titled “Patient-derived pancreatic duct-on-a-chip to study CFTR channel function.” I also received the recognition as the Early Career Investigator by the American Gastroenterological Association in 2017 and 2019. Furthermore, I received the Junior Investigators Best Abstract by the North American Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
We welcome anyone interested in learning how to develop an organ-on-a-chip to our lab.
Cystic Fibrosis and Cystic Fibrosis-related disorders
Instructor, UC Department of Pediatrics