[MSc thesis or Internship] Hydrogel Materials for Novel Organ-on-a-Chip Designs hos Royal Institute of Technology (KTH)

[Important Notes: This project is available as either an internship or a Master's thesis. Duration is flexible, start date January 2021. Due to COVID-19, you have to currently be enrolled at a Swedish university to be accepted.]

Organ-on-a-Chip systems integrate microfluidics and cell culture to create small organ-like devices with equivalents of e.g. blood vessels, epithelial layers, and/or other tissues. Such models are critical to gain better insight into biological functions and thus aid in developing new therapies.

To date, many of these systems rely on hard plastic materials that don’t really mimic the mechanics or surface chemistry of soft tissue in our bodies. Hydrogels – polymer networks holding large amounts of water – can address this challenge, but the materials are often poorly reproducible or not very biomimetic.

The goal of this project is to explore novel, fully defined hydrogel materials to create biomimetic cellular environments, and to evaluate them for application in Organ-on-a-Chip systems. Materials of interest include nanocellulose and spider silk. They can form both fully 3D hydrogels similar to bulk tissues, enabling construction of tubes as shown on the right. They can also form highly permeable 2D membranes, similar to basal lamina which support cell layers in our bodies.

You will:

  • Learn about current challenges in Organ-on-a-Chip systems
  • Prepare a range of hydrogel formulations by varying component concentrations and the addition of proteins for more biomimetic surface chemistry
  • Evaluate biocompatibility of the gels with cell lines in traditional cell culture models
  • Integrate promising hydrogel candidates into existing microfluidic systems, and/or fabricate your own microfluidics following established micromolding protocols
  • Characterize cell behavior using fluorescent microscopy, tracer dyes, electrical measurements, …

You should:

  • Be highly motivated and creative, able to work independently, and open to critical feedback
  • Have a relevant educational background, e.g. in biomedical or chemical engineering
  • Appreciated but not required: Have prior practical experience with hydrogels, cell culture, or microfluidics

How to apply: Please send your CV (including reference contacts), academic transcript, and a personal letter (all in English) to Thomas Winkler (winklert@kth.se).