Lab-on-a-chip developed at NFK enables the study of unique abilities of magnetotactic bacteria

Dec. 5, 2017
A microfluidics chip fabricated at NanoFabrication Kingston has led to exciting new knowledge about how a specific type of bacteria might be used to one day deliver drugs to treat disease.

Dr. Carlos Escobedo and PhD candidate Saeed Rismani Yazdi, both of the Department of Chemical Engineering, Queen’s University, developed their microfluidic chip to mimic the natural swimming environment of magnetotactic bacteria (MTB), tiny organisms that navigate complex water and wet soil environments using the Earth’s magnetic fields.

By observing them as they swam through microscopic channels, the researchers saw that the tiny organisms can be directed to swim against strong currents by altering the magnetic field in their environment.

The discovery is important because it shows that the bacteria can be influenced to move in more challenging conditions — such as the human bloodstream — than those found in nature, Mr. Rismani Yazdi says.

The researchers developed their tiny lab-on-a-chip using NanoFabrication Kingston’s maskless photolithography system, with the help of Dr. Graham Gibson, Lab Operations Manager. “Saeed learned quickly to use our direct-write photolithography tool, which makes prototyping much more efficient. The master mould they fabricated here can be used to make many microfluidic chips,” says Dr. Gibson.

Their work, recently published and featured on the front cover in the journal Small (Magnetotaxis Enables Magnetotactic Bacteria to Navigate in Flow), has led to a collaboration with other Queen’s researchers to use microfluidics to explore how MTB can potentially transport and deliver cancer drugs.

Details about their work can be found here.