Microchip Provides New Understanding of How T Cells React to Infections and Treatments

3D illustration of T cells or cancer cells. iStock.com

The tiny chip will help researchers monitor cell reactions in real time.

Press Release

Fast Facts:

  • NYU Abu Dhabi researchers have developed a microchip that can isolate T cells, in a systematic and precise manner.
  • T cells are a type of white blood cell that is important to the immune system and is at the core of immunity, the system that tailors the body's immune response to specific pathogens (bacteria, virus, or other microorganism that can cause disease).
  • The microchip will help researchers to identify, and track in time, the amount of cytokines released from each cell.
  • Cytokines are small proteins released by cells that have a specific effect on the interactions between cells, on communications between cells or on the behavior of cells.
  • The cytokines include interleukins, lymphokines, and cell signal molecules, such as tumor necrosis factor and interferons, which trigger inflammation and respond to infections.
  • The study was published in Advanced Therapeutics.

A team of engineering researchers from NYU Abu Dhabi have developed a new microchip that efficiently isolates immune T cells, which would enable researchers to precisely identify the type and amount of released cytokines from each individual cell for immuno-characterization of single T cells. Accurate and real-time measurement of T cells’ responses to various bacteria and viruses is critical to understanding the immune status of patients and evaluating how treatment is efficient as well as the efficacy of new candidate drugs.

In the study, “Airplug‐Mediated Isolation and Centralization of Single T Cells in Rectangular Microwells for Biosensing,” published in the journal Advanced Therapeutics, Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering Mohammad Qasaimeh and colleagues explain how they developed a microchip that isolates immune T cells from blood samples, in a massive array of rectangular microwells, with a systematic high efficiency of centralized single cell per microwell.

They achieved this by engineering in situ generated air bubbles and microfabricated matrix of microwells coated with specific antibodies. The developed system provided precise cytokine detection at the individual cell level. The new chip improved the real-time analysis of the cytokine profiles of single T cells, and could be applied to other immune cells such as B and natural killer cells. T cells’ functional signatures identify the “immune phenotype” of patients, which is an important step toward developing personalized medicine approaches.

“The human body’s defense system is highly complex, and the ability to most effectively treat patients has been limited by a lack of understanding about how specific cytokines combat viruses and bacteria,” said corresponding author Qasaimeh. “Immune cells are incredibly heterogeneous because they are disease and patient-specific.”

The first author of the study, Research Assistant Pavithra Sukumar, commented: “Our findings enable, for the first time, precise unbiased evaluation of the immune response of T cells, isolated within rectangular microwells, for quantitative, real-time analysis of the released cytokines.”

Second author in the study, Research Scientist Muhammedin Deliorman, mentioned: “This isolation of immune cells can help elucidate precisely the immune response of cells at single cell level, especially for phenotyping and biotherapeutics studies.”


About NYU Abu Dhabi

NYU Abu Dhabi is the first comprehensive liberal arts and science campus in the Middle East to be operated abroad by a major American research university. NYU Abu Dhabi has integrated a highly-selective liberal arts, engineering and science curriculum with a world center for advanced research and scholarship enabling its students to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world and advance cooperation and progress on humanity’s shared challenges. NYU Abu Dhabi’s high-achieving students have come from 115 nations and speak over 115 languages. Together, NYU's campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai form the backbone of a unique global university, giving faculty and students opportunities to experience varied learning environments and immersion in other cultures at one or more of the numerous study-abroad sites NYU maintains on six continents.