MIT Professor Engineers New Tools in Biomedicine

By: Sara Chauvette

It all starts with a crazy idea. That’s how Massachuesetts Institute of Technology biological engineering professor Paul Blainey says he engineers his most clever technologies.

Most recently, Dr. Blainey created a new way to manipulate microfluids, specifically for the purpose of drug screening. His system seals droplets in wells, which avoids the issue of contamination and leakage. It also allows scientists to analyze many samples at once.

The innovation was born out of his desire to make drug testing simpler. Microfluidic technology had not been used in this process previously because of leakage. Now, Dr. Blainey’s technology is used for drug screenings and a wide range of applications outside of this narrow scope.

“We were interested in identifying opportunities to develop technology that would fill crucial gaps in the life science research portfolio,” said Dr. Blainey in an MIT press release. “We had the opportunity to talk with people, see what the needs were, see where biological research was being well-served by technology, and try to find gaps that might overlap with our toolkit or new things we could invent.”

The university says his lab works on similar problems in fields like genomics, diagnostics and drug development. In his staff bio, he says “we emphasize quantitative single-cell and single-molecule approaches, aiming to enable multiparametric studies with the power to reveal the workings of natural and engineered biological systems across a range of scales.”

MIT’s biological engineering program is working on a variety of other projects, including neuron visualization, engineering drug resistance, tissue modeling and cataloging human digestive tracks.