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Research Abstracts Online
January - December 2011

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University of Minnesota Twin Cities
College of Science and Engineering
Department of Chemistry

PI: Christy L. Haynes

Development of a Simplified On-Chip Immune System for the Study of Cellular Communications

Understanding the cellular interactions occurring in the human immune system is difficult based on the inherent complexity and dynamic nature of the immune system. While several studies use animal models to account for the complex nature of in vivo systems, in vivo assays are expensive, slow, hard to control, and more importantly, do not clearly reveal cellular-level mechanisms, i.e. how one cell signals another and triggers an immune response. Instead of an in vivo approach, this research studies cell-to-cell interactions in vitro in an environment that mimics in vivo systems. As many conventional in vitro assays have shown problems correlating the results to the results from in vivo systems, development of a new in vitro assay platform that provides a better correlation to the in vivo results is an important part of this research.

Microfluidic devices are good candidates to achieve these in vitro assays because they provide a means to easily bring the complexity and dynamic natures of the in vivo system into the in vitro assay platform. Including fluid dynamics in these devices requires high computational ability. Diffusion and transport of molecules need to be modeled for efficient delivery, and other rheological parameters of fluids, such as shear stress, need to be modeled as well in order to model cells in a physiologically relevant environment. The researchers use COMSOL Multiphysics for this modeling. The computational studies in this project will provide useful and fundamental information about cellular-level mechanisms of the immune system.

Group Member

Donghyuk Kim, Graduate Student