Project summary

COCHISE is the first step of an activity aimed at the development of enabling micro-technologies to monitor physiological cellular interactions at the single cell level with a high throughput. It will be applied first to the immunological monitoring of anti-tumor vaccinations, singling out the rare effector cells (in the order of 1 cell among 10.000 cells) that are actually active against tumor cells. The sensor that we are developing consists of an orderly matrix of about 4.000 living cells deposited in microwells created in a biocompatible substrate that also serves as a high-density circuit board. The microwells are monitored by an external microscope and have an embedded addressable impedance sensor. The key point is that each microwell can force contact between individual cells, and detect consequences of these contacts.

The project integrates on the same platform several technologies such as electronic sensing, microfluidic interfaces for cell dispensing, control of osmotic balance of nutrients, management of evaporation, surface nano-modifications for management of fluid flows (e.g. hydrophilic and/or hydrophobic surfaces tend to drive or repel droplets) and avoidance or induction of surface cell adhesion. At the system level, cell delivery will leverage recent results that allow to delivery single cells in an effective way.

An important side of the research is the definition of new therapeutic and diagnostic protocols for the immunotherapy of cancer. As a first step, we will apply our technology to the analysis of anti-tumor lytic effector cells, for a precise quantification of how many lytic events happen in the array, their locations and timings. A major advantage is that the cells are kept alive and can be retrieved individually for further analysis, such as gene expression profiling.