8 May 2014

Silicon Centipede

From Our Changing World, 9:34 pm on 8 May 2014

Steven Banerjee holding a prototype device with Stefanie Gutschmidt

Steven Banerjee holding a prototype device, another one of which is displayed on the screen from the microscope, with Stefanie Gutschmidt

Just like individual humans, individual biological cells can have personality and may respond differently when treated with doses of drugs, DNA, proteins or even quantum dots. However, one petri dish can contain thousands if not millions of individual cells. To study the effects of biological materials on individual cells, rather than get an averaged result, each cell would need to be injected separately, an incredibly time-consuming task.

So PhD student Steven Banerjee and supervisor Stefanie Gutschmidt are developing a new device called the 'silicon centipede’ which will allow faster and more efficient microinjection of materials into cells by automating the process. The device is based on silicon chip technology, and consists of moveable 'micro-stages' which can move in three different planes. These stages would have rows and rows of micro-needles, which could then be angled over the right part of a cell using recognition software.

Ruth Beran goes to the University of Canterbury, to see what the device currently looks like under the microscope and discovers what still needs to be developed before the silicon centipede will be ready for market.

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