My research is about mechanical measurements of cells and liquid biomolecular condensates or protein droplets. I use and develop high-throughput microfluidic techniques and analysis tools for this. My work especially focuses on unravelling time dependent effects of biomaterial deformation. My motivation is that these insights help uncovering new distinctions between cell types and to find correlations between cell mechanics and diseases.
Changes in Blood Cell Deformability in Chorea-Acanthocytosis and Effects of Treatment With Dasatinib or Lithium
Felix Reichel, Martin Kräter, Kevin Peikert, Hannes Glaß, Philipp Rosendahl, Maik Herbig, Alejandro Rivera Prieto, Alexander Kihm, Giel Bosman, et al.
Frontiers in Physiology
Misshaped red blood cells (RBCs), characterized by thorn-like protrusions known as acanthocytes, are a key diagnostic feature in Chorea-Acanthocytosis (ChAc), a rare neurodegenerative disorder. The altered RBC morphology likely influences their biomechanical properties which are crucial for the cells to pass the microvasculature. Here, we investigated blood cell deformability of five ChAc patients compared to healthy controls during up to 1-year individual off-label treatment with the tyrosine kinase inhibitor dasatinib or several weeks with lithium. Measurements with two microfluidic techniques allowed us to assess RBC deformability under different shear stresses. Furthermore, we characterized leukocyte stiffness at high shear stresses. The results showed that blood cell deformability–including both RBCs and leukocytes - in general was altered in ChAc patients compared to healthy donors. Therefore, this study shows for the first time an impairment of leukocyte properties in ChAc. During treatment with dasatinib or lithium, we observed alterations in RBC deformability and a stiffness increase for leukocytes. The hematological phenotype of ChAc patients hinted at a reorganization of the cytoskeleton in blood cells which partly explains the altered mechanical properties observed here. These findings highlight the need for a systematic assessment of the contribution of impaired blood cell mechanics to the clinical manifestation of ChAc.
Intelligent image-based deformation-assisted cell sorting with molecular specificity
Ahmad Ahsan Nawaz, Marta Urbanska, Maik Herbig, Martin Nötzel, Martin Kräter, Philipp Rosendahl, Christoph Herold, Nicole Töpfner, Markéta Kubánková, et al.
Although label-free cell sorting is desirable for providing pristine cells for further analysis or use, current approaches lack molecular specificity and speed. Here, we combine real-time fluorescence and deformability cytometry with sorting based on standing surface acoustic waves and transfer molecular specificity to image-based sorting using an efficient deep neural network. In addition to general performance, we demonstrate the utility of this method by sorting neutrophils from whole blood without labels.
Sorting RT-FDC combines real-time fluorescence and deformability cytometry with sorting based on standing surface acoustic waves to transfer molecular specificity to label-free, image-based cell sorting using an efficient deep neural network.
High-Throughput Microfluidic Characterization of Erythrocyte Shapes and
Felix Reichel, Johannes Mauer, Ahmad Ahsan Nawaz, Gerhard Gompper, Jochen Guck, Dmitry A. Fedosov
The motion of red blood cells (RBCs) in microchannels is important for microvascular blood flow and biomedical applications such as blood analysis in microfluidics. The current understanding of the complexity of RBC shapes and dynamics in microchannels is mainly based on several simulation studies, but there are a few systematic experimental investigations. Here, we present a combined study that systematically characterizes RBC behavior for a wide range of flow rates and channel sizes. Even though simulations and experiments generally show good agreement, experimental observations demonstrate that there is no single well-defined RBC state for fixed flow conditions but rather a broad distribution of states. This result can be attributed to the inherent variability in RBC mechanical properties, which is confirmed by a model that takes the variation in RBC shear elasticity into account This represents a significant step toward a quantitative connection between RBC behavior in microfluidic devices and their mechanical properties, which is essential for a high-throughput characterization of diseased cells.
Standardized microgel beads as elastic cell mechanical probes
S. Girardo, N. Traeber, K. Wagner, G. Cojoc, C. Herold, R. Goswami, R. Schluessler, S. Abuhattum, A. Taubenberger, et al.
JOURNAL OF MATERIALS CHEMISTRY B
Cell mechanical measurements are gaining increasing interest in biological and biomedical studies. However, there are no standardized calibration particles available that permit the cross-comparison of different measurement techniques operating at different stresses and time-scales. Here we present the rational design, production, and comprehensive characterization of poly-acrylamide (PAAm) microgel beads mimicking size and overall mechanics of biological cells. We produced mono-disperse beads at rates of 20-60 kHz by means of a microfluidic droplet generator, where the pre-gel composition was adjusted to tune the beads' elasticity in the range of cell and tissue relevant mechanical properties. We verified bead homogeneity by optical diffraction tomography and Brillouin microscopy. Consistent elastic behavior of microgel beads at different shear rates was confirmed by AFM-enabled nanoindentation and real-time deformability cytometry (RT-DC). The remaining inherent variability in elastic modulus was rationalized using polymer theory and effectively reduced by sorting based on forward-scattering using conventional flow cytometry. Our results show that PAAm microgel beads can be standardized as mechanical probes, to serve not only for validation and calibration of cell mechanical measurements, but also as cell-scale stress sensors.
I studied physics in my Bachelor and Master with an emphasis on biological physics at the Technische Universität Dresden from 2011-2017. After that, I started my PhD in the lab of Jochen Guck and relocated to the MPL in 2019.