In this project we will develop a technology called electrokinetic lithography (EKL) that will fill a technology
void in the current state-of-the-art 3D aligned collagen fiber microengineering techniques. To mimic the
structurally heterogenous environment found in the native extracellular matrix (ECM), we will sequentially
combine extensional fluid flows with electric field driven bead motion (electrokinetics) to “write” cellular-scale
discontinuities between domains of aligned collagen fibers within biomimetic 3D collagen gel. Technology
development will be carried out with the followings aims: 1) Establish flow-based collagen fiber alignment and
characterize electrokinetic transport parameters, and 2) Develop a microfluidic platform to engineer
discontinuities within aligned 3D gel environments and validate cell motility responses.
The success of this project will establish a transferrable lab prototype and support unprecedented studies that
explore how cells respond to local disruptions in the aligned fibrous microarchitecture. Our technique will
support new lines of exploration related to motility, sensing, and cell-cell communication within structurally
heterogeneous environments, and address research questions cannot be currently answered with state-of-
the-art collagen alignment techniques. This project directly aligns with the NIGMS mission of developing tools
that enable potentially transformative biomedical research.