Mankind is currently experiencing a revolution in our understanding of biological processes, from those occurring in "simple" bacteria to those occurring in human beings. Like other scientific revolutions of the past, rapid scientific advances lead to rapid development of engineering disciplines to assist in the understanding and application of this new knowledge. We are seeing this take place today in the development of the discipline of "bioengineering." Bioengineering is a broad term and includes the application of engineering principles to biological processes.
My research is in the area of bioengineering. I have current interest/ projects in the broad areas of cell culture, ranging from the study of human stem and cancer cells to industrially relevant cells. I also have interest in the emerging area of functional genomics, especially as it is related to cell culture, cell separation, and cancer cells.
One specific project involves the ability to identify and separate cells based on specific immunological markers. In collaboration with a colleague at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, we have developed three new, patented immunomagnetic instruments. One of these instruments is an analytical device, while the other two are separation instruments. All three of these instruments have a large number of applications as indicated by the research support that includes the National Cancer Institute, the National Science Foundation, the Whitaker Foundation, and a private corporation. Some of these applications include: human stem cell separation for bone marrow transplants, isolation/separation of rare cancer cells circulating in human blood, and identification and separation of genetically engineered cells with specific phenotypes. Besides studying the engineering principles of this separation approach, exciting fundamental and applied biological questions are being addressed with respect to these isolated cells using the latest molecular techniques.
Another research area involves the development of better fundamental understanding and scale-up criteria for bioprocesses using animal cells. While large-scale animal cell culture has become quite common, a number of important questions/issues remain unresolved. For example, what is the optimum hydrodynamic environment for a suspended or anchorage- dependent cell? What is the mechanism of action, from a molecular point of view, of surface active agents in cell culture medium? Finally, my research group is exploring collaborations with systems research faculty to develop approaches to understand the great wealth of genetic information which is rapidly becoming available. This research will have specific applications with respect to the cancer cell separation projects as well as more general interest.
For news about Professor Chalmers, please visit the chemical engineering department's website.