Development and application of microdevices for instrumenting and controlling single living cells
John Wikswo and his group are at present working in three areas: the study of the linear and non-linear electrical properties of cardiac tissue during stimulation, propagation, and recovery for threshold- and defibrillation-strength shocks; the magnetic measurement of cellular action currents in cardiac and intestinal tissue, as can be observed using SQUID magnetometry; and the development and application of micro- and nano-scale devices for instrumenting and controlling the single biological cell and small populations of cells. His long-term program to understand the effects of defibrillation-strength shocks on cardiac tissue now includes studies of charge and electroporation and molecular diffusion. The magnetic studies of action currents range from determining the information content of the magnetocardiogram in isolated rabbit hearts to the non-invasive diagnosis of intestinal ischemia in humans. The project to instrument and control single cells is addressing issues as varied as the use of cells to identify and discriminate chemical and biological warfare agents by metabolic phenotype; the development and application of BioMEMS (BioMicroElectroMechanical Systems) devices to understand the molecular signaling associated with chemotaxis, cellular motility, angiogenesis, and metastasis; and the nature of the signaling and metabolic activity associated with the immune response.