Students help design a device for capturing rare cells (Day 266)

Rare cell isolation from complex mixtures of cells – such as blood and bone marrow – are used in regenerative therapies and in the management of cancers.

cell mixtureTo improve the process of cell separation and isolation, a multi-disciplinary team of engineers from the University of Florida, US, have teamed up with a biotechnology cell and gene therapy company – Morphogenesis, Inc – to design an advanced, fully automated cell separation system.

Both the faculty members and senior engineering students involved come from a variety of disciplines (mechanical, electrical, biomedical and chemical) and are collaborating with the Tampa based biotechnology company to build a fully functioning prototype of a completed device over the next few months.

The device, based on Polymer Antibody Cell Separator (PACS™) technology and patented by Morphogenesis Inc, will significantly advance the speed and efficiency of rare cell isolation from large volumes of complex cell mixtures.

The cell separation system prototype will also be capable of identifying, capturing and releasing rare cells while maintaining cell viability and function.

This project is being directed by Dr. Michael Lawman and Dr. Patricia Lawman from Morphogenesis and Professor Keith Stanfill, director of the Integrated Product and Process Design (IPPD) program at the University of Florida College of Engineering, with Professor Carlos Rinaldi from the Department of Chemical Engineering acting as an advisor to the project.

Keith Stanfill
Photo Credit | University of Florida
Professor Keith Stanfill

Keith said: “Partnering with Morphogenesis on this design project – this revolutionary cell separation device – is providing our senior undergraduate engineering students with an opportunity to contribute to cutting edge research.

“During this process, the students are learning to work in a multi-disciplinary team with a remote client (Morphogenesis). They’re producing technical deliverables such as project plans, testing plans, detailed equipment design documents, and technical reports. And they are learning to get work completed on time and within budget.

“We are delighted to have this opportunity to work with Morphogenesis to move their technology forward, while also providing an unparalleled educational opportunity for our students.”

Not only are the engineering students benefiting from this type of experience, but more importantly they are developing a more efficient technology that will capture rare cells, such as stem cells, and circulate tumour cells.

This is a great example of multi-disciplinary team work, and as I have said before in my blog, ‘Ten common misconceptions about chemical engineers debunked‘, collaboration is one of the most important factors that allow chemical engineers, and engineers alike, to deliver successful outputs and in this case, a tangible product.

I wish them every success in developing their prototype and I look forward to hearing the results that this more effective biotechnology will bring.


Are a student developing new technology? If so, and you would like to share your story, get in touch via the blog.

2 thoughts on “Students help design a device for capturing rare cells (Day 266)”

  1. Multi-disciplinary teams such as this working with real problems demonstrate just what can be achieved.


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