Our major research interest is to design and develop micro- and nano-scale biochips/devices for diagnostic and therapeutic biomedical applications including cancer diagnosis/therapy, infectious diseases and regenerative medicine.
For diagnosis, our current focus is on extracellular vesicles (EVs) based liquid biopsy assay development by using affinity based EV separation to sort and capture specific exosome-like and microvesicle-like EV subpopulations and then using molecular beacons and fluorescence labelled antibodies as probes to measure RNA and protein targets at single EV level on a total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscope.
For therapeutics, we have extended our nanocarrier strategy from synthetic lipoplex and polyplex nanoparticles to cell secreted therapeutic exosomes (tExos) in recent years. Unlike synthetic nanocarriers, tExos possess low toxicity and low immunogenicity, and can penetrate physiological barriers such as blood-brain barrier (BBB) and solid tumors via transcytosis. Exosomes released from stem cells such as mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) also provide anti-inflammation and anti-fibrosis functions. Furthermore, we have developed a unique nanochannel electroporation (NEP) technology which can transfect individual cells with high dose control and cell viability. In addition to direct cell transfection of plasmid DNAs and molecular probes for cell reprogamming, gene editing and living cell interrogation, NEP can also produce a large sclae EVs including exosomes from stimulated cells, which containing targeting peptides and therapeutic mRNAs, microRNAs and shRNAs. This technology has been demonstrated in in vivo tissue nano-transfection (TNT) for tissue repair, and in ex vivo cellular nanoporation (CNP) of tExo generation for transcriptional manipulation.