Aaron_Ohta-An RTRN Small Grants Program awardee in 2009, Dr. Aaron Ohta, then an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, collaborated with Dr. Jerry Guyden and Dr. Michael Samms, of the City College of New York, to develop a “smart” culture platform (SCP) consisting of an optically controlled cell culturing and harvesting device, which allowed an unprecedented degree of accuracy and control over selectively culturing single cells.

The functionalities of the SCP included applications to improve cell-based treatments by enriching for the desired cells in culture. In addition, many other types of cell cultures, such as epithelial cell cultures, would benefit from the enrichment capability of the SCP. Furthermore, the SCP would enable more detailed fundamental research into cell-cell interactions within homogeneous and heterogeneous cell populations. In the Small Grants Program project, the SCP was utilized as a tool to isolate thymic nurse cells (TNCs) from a heterogeneous population of thymic epithelial cells, in order to better understand their progenitor potential and possible use in thymic organogenesis.

Dr. Ohta’s research interests include microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and microfluidics. He has published two book chapters and more than 70 peer-reviewed journal and conference papers, and is co-inventor on two U.S. patents. Dr. Ohta (aohta@hawaii.edu) is looking for collaborators who may be interested in using the SCP and other tools/technologies that he has developed.

The publication, presentation, and grant applications related to this RTRN Small Grants Program project are listed below:

Ishii KS, Hu W, Namekar SA, Ohta AT. An optically controlled 3D cell culturing system. Advances in Optoelectronics 2011 Jan 1;2011. pii: 253989. Epub 2011 Sep 12. PMCID: PMC3373019. Acknowledges RTRN (U54RR022762).

Hu W, Fan Q, Ishii KS, Ohta AT. An opto-thermocapillary cell manipulator. In: 16th International Conference on Miniaturized Systems for Chemistry and Life Sciences (Micro-TAS), October 2012.

National Science Foundation, Optically Controlled Cell Patterning and 3D Culturing, 09/01/11-08/31/14, Ohta (PI), $389,637, unfunded.

National Science Foundation, CAREER: Research and Education in Optically Controlled Systems for the Patterning, Manipulation, and Micro-assembly of Living Cells, 01/01/12-12/31/17, Ohta (PI), $400,000, unfunded.

National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, National Institutes of Health, Grant Number: 1R01EB016458-01, NRI: Parallel, Independent Control of Microrobots for Microassembly of Tissues. Goal of project: Developing microrobot systems for the in vitro assembly of tissues. Project Period: 08/01/12-07/31/15, Ohta (PI), $329,940.