10 March, Kuala Lumpur – Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM) have co-organised a Lecture on Acoustofluidics by Professor Thomas Laurell from Lund University, Sweden. During the lecture, Professor Laurell described basic development and design of acoustofluidic systems as well as applications and development of the novel research field.
Acoustofluidics is a relatively new research field that combines acoustics with microfluidics to enable gentle yet high performing manipulation of biological matter. Well-defined and localised acoustic forces are used to precisely move cells in a process called acoustophoresis.
Acoustophoresis has often been compared to the current technique of centrifugation. The former provides some advantages over the latter: Acoustophoresis is a gentler process that causes less cell damage compared to centrifugation. Additionally, acoustophoresis is able to handle smaller sample volumes. Furthermore, acoustophoretic apparatus have fewer moving parts hence require less maintenance. In the case of extracellular vesicle (EV) isolation, it reduces the likelihood of smaller EVs merging to become bigger EVs that will affect the end result.
Professor Laurell explained that the process of acoustophoresis separates particles based on particle size, density, and compressibility. Acoustofluidics enables scientists to carry out laboratory operations such as depletion, concentration or enrichment, buffer exchange, and separation.
Medical application of Acoustofluidics: Preparing and processing blood component sample. (Source)
According to Professor Laurell, acoustophoresis can be used in isolating circulating tumour cells (CTC) and leukocytes (a type of white blood cell). The process is also used in cell washing, a technique to “wash” red blood cells to get rid of proteins that may cause severe allergic reactions and reduce transfusion related complications.
Professor Laurell also highlighted a significant advancement in acoustofluidics, where recent development has enabled acoustofluidics to become more precise to detect bacteria and submicron vesicles. A rising interest in the latter (extracellular vesicles, in particular) and its link to disease biomarkers is now a major focus area of acoustofluidics. Professor Laurell further explained the application of acoustophoresis during the lecture.
Thomas Laurell is a Professor in Medical and Chemical Microsensors at the Department of Biomedical Engineering, Lund University. He has 20 years of experience in the development of lab-on-a-chip based bioanalytical and medical diagnostic technology.
From 2009 to 2014, he served as the director of a clinically oriented research environment, CellCARE at Lund University, with a focus on chip-integrated cell separation and manipulation in clinical applications, using ultrasonic standing wave technology. Professor Laurell is also an Honorary Visiting Professor at Faculty of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, UPM.
In 2014, Professor Laurell received a grant from Foundation for Strategic Research (SSF), where he worked on acoustofluidic purification of exosomes, microvesicles and bacteria in clinical diagnostic applications. Currently, he is working on acoustofluidics in medical applications, a project funded by Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.