PhD Studentship: Developing a Microfluidic Platform to Mimic Human Physiology in A 3-D Cell Culture Model for Tuberculosis (TB) Studies

University of Southampton - Bioengineering, Faculty of Engineering and the Environment

There is growing recognition that 2-dimensional cell culture may not accurately reflect conditions in man, and thus more advanced 3-dimensional (3-D) systems are required. We have recently developed a 3-D cell culture model of tuberculosis (TB) infection based on bioelectrospray technology, where Mycobacterium TB remains a major global pathogen. With bioelectrospray technology the cells and pathogen are encapsulated within microspheres, and therefore media can be irrigated around them without loss of either bacteria or immune cells. Microfluidics generally involves miniaturised systems that process small volumes of fluids within microchannels (dimensions ranging from tens to hundreds of micrometres). We have conclusively demonstrated the unique characteristics of microfluidic systems in terms of precise fluidic control and monitoring. The aim of this project is to integrate advanced microfluidic and 3-D printing technologies with the 3-D cell culture model in order to provide a paradigm-changing platform of broad utility enabling regulating and characterising the microenvironment in a controllable, high-throughput format. The main objectives are (i) Design and fabrication of multiwell plate format microfluidic devices, which consist of microchannels for media inlet and outlet. (ii) Integration of multiple micropumps with microfluidic devices, where the micropump operates on a screw-driven principle powered by batteries, and fabricated by 3-D printing. (iii) Characterisation of the integrated microfluidic system, including flow rate, flow pattern and mixing, residence time, and the capacity of micropump. (iv) Generation of microsphere-based 3-D cell models, by passing the bioelectrospray solution through an Encapsulator which crosslink in a gelling bath. (v) Antibiotic efficacy test, with standard first line antibiotics against Mtb by analysing luminescence of the 3-D microsphere system. This project will be conducted jointly by the faculties of Engineering and Medicine through an interdisciplinary approach drawing on diverse expertise and unique infrastructure available across faculties. Candidates with at least an upper second (2:1) class degree in a relevant discipline (e.g., Biomedical Sciences, Biochemistry, and Engineering) are invited to apply. Research experience or a Master’s degree in a related area (e.g., Microfluidics and/or Respiratory Medicine) would be highly beneficial.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Dr Xunli Zhang, Bioengineering research group, Email:, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 5099.

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South East England