A lab-on-a-chip is a device that integrates one or several laboratory functions on a single chip. In the Sensing and Separation group we are focused on the development of multi-parameter multi-sensing lab-on- chip platforms that are capable of real time continuous monitoring cellular health.
The Toxichip platform is an example of such an integrated lab-on-chip platform. The Toxichip project was funded under FP6 and was concerned with developing a multi-parameter integrated detection platform for real-time and simultaneous measurement of cell adhesion, cell morphology, pH and temperature of the media. It is capable of simultaneous optical and impedance detection enabling cellular behaviour to be monitored. This platform combines an emerging sensor technology, electric cell-substrate impedance sensing (ECIS) with conventional optical imaging using transparent electrodes. It also integrates fluidic control to allow cell media and test chemicals (toxins/drugs) to be delivered to the cells. The platform houses 6 individual modules, which are easily assembled, and inserted into the platform. Each module consists of an impedance biochip, temperature, pH and dissolved oxygen sensors, a PDMS gasket and fluidic cartridges. It also has six cameras which are capable of imaging the attached cells on the surface of the transparent electrodes.
Combining instrumental and new sensory methods through integration of multi-sensing microsystems technologies will enable significant advances in lab-on-chip research. Through development of such microsystems and smart miniaturised systems, improvements in reliability and cost reduction will be achieved. The ideal application for lab-on-chip technology if for point of concern testing where the monitoring and analysis capabilities can be realised on site, faster and more efficientily. These types of sensing platforms together with proprietary assays will address markets including the pharmaceutical industry, environmental monitoring, health care and security/defence sectors.