An award is made to the University of Illinois at Chicago to develop a new platform to control dissolved gasses in cellular cultures. Current methods to do this are imprecise and create limitation in new discoveries of basic cellular biology. Our oxygen platform leverages rapid diffusion found at the microscale to expose cells or tissues to various oxygen landscapes as defined by the buried microfluidic gas networks. There are three key innovations with our platform. 1) The culture area is large enough to harvest enough cellular material to process with standard biological assays such as Western blots, PCR analysis, or flow cytometry. 2) The platform is easily suited for live-cell imaging under hypoxia in the absence of shear flow which is currently not possible or exceedingly cumbersome. 3) The platform equilibrates in minutes instead of hours (an order of magnitude improvement), allows rapid oxygen condition modulation, and allows new oxygen landscapes to be exposed across samples that would not be possible with standard methods. Together, these innovations should allow our platform to replace the current methods for oxygen modulation and facilitate new investigations currently limited by costly or imprecise equipment. The platform developed under this proposal will create a suite of tools to probe a previously difficult to control variable and enhance experimental efficiency. There is a tremendous need and demand for improved methods of oxygen control in the biomedical research community. This is based on the initial response we have received when discussing with potential collaborators and dearth of comparable methods.
The educational objectives of this proposal aim to develop interest for science and engineering through exposure of elementary students to interactive laboratory activities at the University of Illinois at Chicago. We will target at risk elementary school students by working with the Girl Scouts of Chicago to provide positive experiences with science and engineering in the years before their impressions are set. Program evaluation will include both formative feedback, which will allow us to adjust our methods as we learn from the activities, and a summative appraisal of whether the stated goals have been met. We will have interactive lab activities involved with cell biology and basic processing with the Arduino platform, both of which are integrated into the research objectives of this proposal. Specifically, scouts will spend a day at UIC and work with female graduate students to demonstrate the excitement, creativity, and innovation found in research.