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David Beebe
August 28, 2019

Beebe lab designs stackable microfluidic system

Written By: Tom Ziemer


University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers, led by biomedical engineering Professor David Beebe, and collaborators at the University of Washington have created a reconfigurable microfluidic system that allows researchers to more effectively model intercellular communications.

The team, which includes seven current or former members of Beebe’s lab, outlines its system in a paper in published August 19, 2019, in Nature Biomedical Engineering.

Jiaquan “Jason” Yu (PhD ’19), who’s now a postdoctoral researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Erwin Berthier (PhD ’11), an affiliate assistant professor at the University of Washington and co-founder of Tasso (a Beebe lab spinoff company), were joint first authors on the paper.

The researchers call their setup the “Stacks” system, which allows users to culture distinct microenvironments and then control when they interact.

“Layers can be stacked, unstacked and dynamically reconfigured over the course of an experimental protocol without disrupting the culture,” the authors write. “Thus, the researcher is empowered to decide the time at which the complexity is increased, and intercellular communication begins through the simple action of connecting the layers.”

While the researchers used Stacks to examine signaling between cancer tumor cells and immune cells, they note their main objective in the project was to demonstrate the utility of the system.

Beebe is the John D. MacArthur Professor and Claude Bernard Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and the School of Medicine and Public Health. He is also a member of the Carbone Cancer Center, as are co-authors David Jarrard, a professor of urology, and Wei Huang, a professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.