Our research group has five focus areas: (1) V-Chip for point-of-care diagnostics, (2) cancer stem cell enrichment and metastatic biomarker discovery, (3) cancer cell migration and invasion studies, (4) Block-Cell-Printing and single-cell isolation, and (5) pathogen confinement and detection. Each of these research areas are detailed below.

1. V-Chip for Point-of-Care Diagnostics
Quantitative measurement of disease biomarkers remains a critical, yet unmet need in the development of portable diagnostic devices. Most systems developed, so far, rely on electronic sensors or optical systems, which are complicated and costly. In the V-Chip device, we link the detection of biomarkers with the enzymatic production of oxygen. The gas then pushes red ink along tiny channels on the device, with distances being proportional to the amount of biomarker in the sample. Various chip designs have been presented that allow the measurement of up to 50 samples in parallel and that display quantitative results as intuitive ink bar graphs directly on the device. Due to its visual nature and simplicity, the method could find application for a range of diagnostic purposes.


Song Y, Zhang Y, Bernard PE, Reuben JM, Ueno NT, et al. Multiplexed volumetric bar-chart chip for point-of-care diagnostics. Nature Communications. 2012 Dec 18; 3:1283.
"V-Chip for Fast Point-of-Care Diagnostics from a Drop of Blood" from MedGadget featuring a Nature Video.
"Pocket test measures 50 things in a drop of blood" as featured in NanoWerk.

2. Cancer Stem Cell Enrichment and Metastatic Biomarker Discovery
Although currently available biotechnology has provided us with a great understanding of the molecular events in cancer, integrated microfluidic chips provide unique methodologies that can recapitulate the spatial and temporal control of cell proliferation and cell-cell/matrix communication by combining surfaces that mimic the complex biochemistries and geometries of the extracellular matrix.

This research focuses on developing integrated proteomic microchips to analyze cell heterogeneity using state-of-the-art bioinformatics tools and to identify metastatic signatures and biomarkers. The research aims to deliver brand new technologies and methodologies capable of identifying tumor-initiating cells, discover potential biomarkers for clinical diagnosis and targeted therapy, and stage metastatic potential according to cell mechanics.


Zhang W, Kai K, Choi DS, Iwamoto T, Nguyen YH, et al. Microfluidics separation reveals the stem-cell-like deformability of tumor-initiating cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2012 Nov 13; 109(46):18707-12.
"Tumor-Causing Cells are Squishier", as featured on the National Cancer Institute-PSOC website.
"Enriching metastatic cells", as featured in Nature Methods. 2013 Jan; 10(1):14. 

3. Cancer Cell Migration and Invasion Studies
This project uses microfluidic chips to study cancer stem cell migration and the relationship of epithelial-mesenchymal transition to cancer cell migration.



Zhang Y, Zhang W, Qin L. Mesenchymal-mode migration assay and antimetastatic drug screening with high-throughput microfluidic channel networks. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2014 Feb 24; 53(9):2344-8.
"Screening antimetastatic compounds using microfluidic-based tracking of cell migration", as featured in Nature SciBX.

4. Block-Cell-Printing and Single-Cell Isolation
A unique live-cell printing technique, termed “Block-Cell-Printing” (BloC-Printing), allows for convenient, precise, multiplexed and high-throughput printing of functional single-cell arrays. Adapted from woodblock printing techniques, the approach employs microfluidic arrays of hook-shaped traps to hold cells at designated positions and directly transfer the anchored cells onto various substrates. BloC-Printing has a minimum turnaround time of 0.5 h, a maximum resolution of 5 μm, close to 100% cell viability, the ability to handle multiple cell types and efficiently construct protrusion-connected single-cell arrays. This method has been applied to the study of GJIC in heterotypic cell pairs with controlled morphology, rapidly characterizing cells’ ability to extend membranes, and for controlled printing of individual primary neurons. In the future, BloC-Printing may be combined with well-established molecular printing technology to obtain multiplexed single-cell arrays for high-throughput drug screening.



Zhang K, Chou CK, Xia X, Hung MC, Qin L. Block-Cell-Printing for live single-cell printing. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2014 Feb 25; 111(8):2948-53.
“Cell-array construction inspired by woodblock printing”, as featured in PNAS, 2014 Feb; 1111(8):2857-2858.
“New live-cell printing technology works like ancient Chinese woodblocking”, as featured in Science Daily.
“Ancient Chinese woodblocks inspire new cell-printing technique”, as featured in Los Angeles Times. 

5. Pathogen Confinement and Detection
Inspired by a global need for better diagnosis and treatment strategies, this research focuses on point-of-care challenges to ultimately design a flexible multi-platform microfluidic device for the rapid and direct characterization of rare, disease-related cells for individualized patient care. We intend to transform disease diagnosis and treatment strategies by:

(1) fabricating selective and sensitive microfluidic devices that can detect antigens secreted by rare, disease-related cells on a single cell level at concentrations in the sub-picomolar level,
(2) correlating amounts of secreted antigens to aggression/metastatic behaviors of the disease by on-chip quantitative analysis using fluorescence for more personalized care,
(3) facilitating 10+ different drug treatments simultaneously on a single microfluidic chip in 24 hours,
(4) scaling up production, delivering devices, and commencing preclinical studies at the community level of resource-poor settings through overseas collaborations for a fast delivery of cutting edge technology to those who need it most.

Nguyen YH, Ma X, Qin LD. Rapid identification and drug susceptibility screening of ESAT-6 secreting mycobacteria by a NanoELIwell assay. Scientific Reports (by Nature Publishing Group). 2012 Sep 6;2:635.
Editors from Lab on Chip Research Highlights. Nanoscale ELISA for TB detection. Lab On A Chip. 2012 Dec 21; 12(24):5127-9.
"New Tools Improves, Speeds TB Diagnosis" as featured on ICT: Infection Control Today and News Blaze. 
"Methodist Hospital Develops New Technology to Rapidly Detect Drug-Resistant TB" as featured on Rapid Micro Methods News, News Medical, and TB Online.
We currently have various postdoctoral positions available for the above research areas. Those who are interested, please send a cover letter, including a research description, a detailed CV and three references with contact information to Dr. Lidong Qin, PhD (