PHANES (Ancient Greek: “I bring to light”) was the mystic primeval deity known to create new life through light. In this sense, this research project aims to create new “lifeforms” through manipulation with light.

The main goal of the project PHANES is the fabrication and assembly of multi-cellular hybrid bio-MEMS by manipulation with optical tweezers, aiming to produce highly biocompatible  and autonomous microsystems.

cells render 5PHANES plays at the interface between microfabrication and cell biology. It aims to take advantage of the recent advances in assembling microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) by optical tweezers in order to combine cellular and silicon based intelligence into novel smart systems. The outcome of this endeavor will contribute to the advance of the state of the art in emerging technologies as well as enable novel applications. The project is an essential part of the long-term development of active and implantable bio-medical MEMS, i.e. functional micro-prostheses such as inner ear replacements or iris reconstructions.

Combining the optical assembly of cells with MEMS will result in an unprecedented kind of hybrid system. For the first time the fabrication of micrometer-sized, autonomous hybrid and multi-cellular bio-MEMS is foreseen.

In the field of cell culturing the concept of optical manipulation will open new and promising possibilities to pattern and co-culture cells. Even without considering the combination with MEMS this ability goes beyond what has been reported so far. In the long term, the ability of positioning and co-culturing multiple type cells in 3D opens a wide range of applications in the field of biotechnologies and biomedical technologies. In fact, advances in this field will create timely relevant opportunity for the development of active micro-prostheses:

  • Self-powered, micronsized hybrid bio-MEMS may considerably contribute to the down scaling of implantable sensors, due to the combination of self-powered, actuating and sensing cells with intelligent MEMS.
  • The combination of patient cells with implantable devices may increase the body acceptance of the devices and so reduce the fibrotic rejections leading to frequent exchange of the devices.
  • Interfacing hybrid devices with neurons can contribute to advances in neuroplastic surgery as well as to body replacements such as inner ear cochlea and eye iris.
  • The design of a universal intelligent MEMS bricks for cell assembly will doubtlessly set the basis for unprecedented combinations of cells and MEMS and set a milestone in the development of hybrid bio-MEMS.

This project represents a unique opportunity for European Research Community to fortify its scientific excellence by developing a new kind of hybrid micro systems that can become a revolution in bio-technological and potentially in bio-medical related research and industry.

Phanes is a multidisciplinary research project founded by the People Program (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union’s Seventh Framework Program (FP7/2007-2013) under REA grant agreement #627037.

Link to CORDIS.

Short Bio (Dr. M. Gullo)

Bio-hybrid systems are my world! During my PhD at the Institute of Microtechnology of the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland, I microfabricated scanning probe microscope (SPM) cantilevers for the electrochemical current measurement trough biological membrane protein crystals. I continued my journey in SPM with the Swiss instrument manufacturer Nanosurf AG, where I could initiate and co-develop a bio SPM instrument. Thereafter I worked as scientist at the Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. There, my research was focused on the study of hydrophobic interactions for the in-liquid self-assembly of MEMS. During this study I could build a homemade holographic optical tweezers system capable of manipulating MEMS in 3D as well as study their hydrophobic interaction.  As follow-up I was awarded a Marie-Curie Fellowship (FP7) which enabled me to continue my scientific endeavors in biohybrid systems..

> IMTEK University of Freiburg Site.

> Find me on ResearchGate