EVO-NANO Q&A – Isabel Rodriguez Fernandez on microfluidics for cancer therapy

First of all, could you please introduce yourselves to the readers? I’m sure they would like to get to know the people behind this project.

I began my education by studying Pharmacy in Madrid and went on to do a PhD in Chemistry at the National University of Singapore. Later on, I built most of my research career in Singapore at the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering of A*STAR. Six years ago, I moved to IMDEA-Nanoscience in Madrid.

I work in areas impacted by polymer micro- and nano-fabrication technologies at an intersection of many disciplines, ranging from materials science and surface science to chemistry and life sciences. Over the years, I have shifted my research from micro-analytical techniques, to microfluidics and functional topographical surfaces.

In more physically oriented applications, I have focused on bio-mimetic surfaces to construct functional surfaces for the control of inter-facial interactions, wetability, dry adhesion or anti-reflection.

More recently in our lab, we are focusing on the development topographies and cell culture platforms that elicit desired controlled responses on mammalian cells, or bactericidal effects on adherent bacteria which we expect to have implications in certain areas of regenerative medicine.

If a researcher wanted to visit your laboratory/facility/company, what would be one thing you’d be eager to show off? Can you provide an image or a paper that shows it?

Inside Front Cover: Advanced Functional Materials, Vol. 26, No. 31, August 16, 2016

One important activity in the lab today is the development of nano-engineered tools for biology and we are particularly focused on micro-/nano-patterned cell instructive surfaces, antibacterial surfaces and microfluidic cell based platforms.

The SEM image above shows a relevant publication on cell instructive topographical surfaces, where the surface of micro-/nano-structured polymeric pillars affects the morphology and migration of human neuronal cells as they interact with each other.

What’s your current outlook on the future of your work? Can you see the pathways where it will be going, or is it a wild frontier?

Research has endless possibilities and as such, there is always a wild frontier and that is the thrilling part of it.  But for the near future, we do plan our objectives carefully and draw the path to get there.

An important unresolved issue in nanomedicine research is to optimize nanoparticle pharmacokinetics with the aim of increasing their bio-availability inside the tumour to therapeutic levels.

Towards this aim, we are developing tumour-on-a-chip devices to replace the conventional Petri dish type of cell culture models for ex-vivo models that are closer to reality, and help to reduce the need for animal studies during the development of cancer nanomedicines.

In EVO-NANO we expect to develop effective tumour-on-a-chip devices recreating the different tumour physiological micro-environments involved during the transport and distribution of nanoparticles into tumours.

Towards this task, I believe in EVONANO we have an upper hand given by the strong computational force and the expertise in cancer nanomedicine of the EVO-NANO teams working collectively. Our tumour-on-a-chip models will be designed and validated together with in silico models to ensure that we have the appropriate parameters and contrasted relevant data.