Archive for June 2018

Success in ARC Linkage grant

Great news today with the announcement of successful ARC Linkage grants. Our project aimed at the “Detection and viability of waterborne pathogens using a gut-on-chip” has been funded. Prof Una Ryan from Murdoch University is leading the project which will bring together her team in Western Australian with UniSA, SA Water, Seqwater and Water NSW.


Our cell-based non-invasive prenatal testing project features in media

Congratulation to the whole team – the recently published article in Advanced Technologies Materials has gathered some media attention. In addition to featuring in the Adelaide Advertiser, this work has been picked up in a number of media outlets:

The Unisa press release:

A wide range of fetal genetic abnormalities could soon be detected in early pregnancy thanks to a world-first study led by University of South Australia researchers using lab-on-a-chip, non-invasive technology.

Biomedical engineers Dr Marnie Winter and Professor Benjamin Thierry from UniSA’s Future Industries Institute (FII) and the ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology  (CBNS) are part of a team of researchers who have isolated fetal cells from maternal blood using a tiny microfluidic device, allowing for improved genetic testing.

The technology breakthrough is published today (Thursday 14 June) in Advanced Materials Technologies.

Lab-on-a-chip (LOC) technology integrates laboratory functions on a chip ranging from a few millimetres to a few square centimetres. The special design of the device allows large volumes of blood to be screened, paving the way for an efficient, cheap and quick method of separating fetal cells from maternal blood cells.

“We are hopeful that this device could result in a new, non-invasive prenatal diagnostic test able to detect a wide range of genetic abnormalities in early pregnancy from a simple blood sample,” Dr Winter says.

Currently, prenatal diagnostic tests involve an amniocentesis procedure or taking a sample of cells from the placenta (chorionic villus sampling), both of which carry a risk of inducing miscarriage.

“From about five weeks into the pregnancy, fetal cells originating from the placenta can be found in a mother’s bloodstream. Using modern microfluidic technology, we can now isolate these extremely rare cells (about one in a million) from the mother’s white blood cells and collect them for genetic analysis,” she says.

The UniSA researchers, working in collaboration with Dr Majid Warkiani from the University of Technology Sydney and specialists from the Women’s and Children’s Hospital,  SA Pathology and Repromed, adapted the device from one initially developed to isolate tumour cells from the blood of cancer patients.

“Many pregnant women would be aware of the new tests based on circulating fetal DNA that – with a simple blood test – help determine the risk of having a baby with Down syndrome.

“These tests have revolutionised prenatal care, but they can only detect a small subset of genetic conditions and are not always accurate. We hope this LOC technology will be able to reliably detect a greater range of genetic abnormalities, providing more information to families and healthcare providers,” Dr Winter says.

Professor Thierry, who leads UniSA’s Bioengineering group, says there is significant scope to further develop the lab-on-a-chip concept.

“We are collaborating with industry partners to translate this technology in routine clinical prenatal diagnostics and make it available in the future to screen low and medium-risk pregnancies,” he says.

Professor Emily Hilder, Director of UniSA’s FII, says: “This research breakthrough is testament to the cutting-edge technology being developed at the Future Industries Institute. UniSA is a leading player in LOC technology thanks to our ANFF-SA micro and nanofabrication facility at Mawson Lakes.”

Marnie features in UniSA’s 8 women in STEM



Ana begins her 6 months stay in Hans Clever’s group

All the best to Ana for her Endeavor Award in the group of Prof Hans Clever at the Ubrecht. Prof Clever is one of the world leading cell biologists and a pioneer in the fields of  stem cells and regenerative medicine. His group is at the forefront in the field of organoid research. This 6 month visit will be a fantastic experience for Ana and the chance to build long-lasting collaboration.

The BioEngineering group lab is officially certified OGTR PC2

Great news as the lab is now officially certified as an OGTR PC2 laboratory. Thanks to Marnie and others for all the hard work leading to this.

PC2 Lab