Researchers headed by a team at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, have developed what they claim is an inexpensive, sensitive smartphone-based device that can detect viral and bacterial pathogens in about 30 minutes, and could be adapted to test for SARS-CoV-2. The platform comprises a cartridge-housed microfluidic chip that carries out isothermal amplification of viral nucleic acids from nasal swab samples, which are then detected using the smartphone camera. The investigators report on their use of the system to detect equine viruses as a non-biohazard surrogate for SARS-CoV-2, but say that when adapted to test for coronavirus, the smartphone accessory, costing about $50, could be used to reduce the pressure on testing laboratories during pandemics such as COVID-19.
“This test can be performed rapidly on passengers before getting on a flight, on people going to a theme park, or before events like a conference or concert,” said University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign electrical and computer engineering professor Brian Cunningham, PhD, who, together with bioengineering professor Rashid Bashir, PhD, led the development of the device. “Cloud computing via a smartphone application could allow a negative test result to be registered with event organizers or as part of a boarding pass for a flight. Or, a person in quarantine could give themselves daily tests, register the results with a doctor, and then know when it’s safe to come out and rejoin society… Continue reading.
Graphene-based biosensors could usher in an era of liquid biopsy, detecting DNA cancer markers circulating in a patient’s blood or serum. But current designs need a lot of DNA. In a new study, crumpling graphene makes it more than ten thousand times more sensitive to DNA by creating electrical “hot spots,” researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found.
Crumpled graphene could be used in a wide array of biosensing applications for rapid diagnosis, the researchers said. They published their results in the journal Nature Communications.
“This sensor can detect ultra-low concentrations of molecules that are markers of disease, which is important for early diagnosis,” said study leader Rashid Bashir, a professor of bioengineering and the dean of the Grainger College of Engineering at Illinois. “It’s very sensitive, it’s low-cost, it’s easy to use, and it’s using graphene in a new way… Continue reading.
Rashid Bashir will become the next dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign effective Nov. 1, pending approval by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. Bashir is the executive associate dean and chief diversity officer of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine.
Bashir joined the Illinois faculty as a professor of electrical and computer engineering in 2007. His research interests include bio-nanotechnology, the interfacing of biology and engineering from the molecular to the tissue scale, and applications of semiconductor fabrication to biomedical engineering, all applied to solving biomedical problems. He holds the Grainger Distinguished Chair in Engineering… Continue reading.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Bioengineering Professor Rashid Bashir will receive the 2018 Robert A. Pritzker Distinguished Lecture Award at the Biomedical Engineering Society’s (BMES) annual meeting on October 18 in Atlanta. The premier award from BMES, it recognizes outstanding achievements and leadership in the science and practice of biomedical engineering.
Bashir’s research focuses on integrating engineering and technology with biology, from the molecular scale to tissues and systems. Among other innovations, his group has developed various lab-on-a-chip technologies, miniature biological robots, and point-of-care diagnostic devices, leading to the creation of multiple startup companies… Continue reading.
Science Translational Medicine published a new article co-authored by Shu Chien, Rashid Bashir, Robert M. Nerem, and Roderic Pettigrew (All AIMBE Fellows), entitled “Engineering as a New Frontier for Translational Medicine” in the April 1 issue.
The article’s abstract reads: The inclusion of engineering ideas and approaches makes medicine a quantitative and systems-based discipline that facilitates precision diagnostics and therapeutics to improve health care delivery for all.
Much like the blood sugar test which allows diabetics to quickly and easily monitor glucose levels, a new handheld device developed at the University of Illinois aims to quickly and accurately diagnose HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
It’s called a “microfluidic biochip” and it’s smaller than our palm, about the size of a credit card. What it can do is count a specific type of white blood cells that the HIV virus works to destroy.
When people are tested for HIV, the process typically involves blood being drawn by phlebotomists in a lab or clinic. Then the blood is analyzed using special equipment called “flow cytometers,” which are operated by trained individuals. Results can come back in a day or two and the cost is about $50 to $80 per test.
The microfluidic biochip test requires fewer people to be involved. And it costs a lot less — about $10 a test, estimated UI graduate student Umer Hassan.
“We are all excited about this technology and the kind of impact it will have, especially in low-resource settings,” Hassan said.
In parts of sub-Saharan Africa, where there are approximately 22 million people living with HIV/AIDS, or rural parts of the United States, some patients live hours from a health clinic, said Rashid Bashir, UI professor and head of the Department of Bioengineering. His research group developed the chip.
A new sensor technology developed by researchers at the University of Illinois and collaborators at Daktari Diagnostics can diagnose HIV/AIDS using just a drop of blood. The device could provide less costly, easy-to-use, immediate disease diagnostics, especially useful in remote areas of the world and locations with limited resources.
Developed by the research group of Rashid Bashir, professor of bioengineering and electrical and computer engineering and head of the Department of Bioengineering at Illinois, the device uses a microfluidic biochip, a miniaturized chip designed to process fluids and sense the cells electronically. It works similar to a common blood sugar test, where a patient can put a drop of blood on a strip and insert the strip into a handheld reader to get a blood glucose result. In this case, the strip is a biochip inside of a cartridge, where white blood cells are captured in a microfluidic chamber coated with proteins.
The portable device provides information on the number of white blood cells and CD4+ T cells (immune cells that get destroyed when a patient is infected with the HIV virus) are in a drop of blood. Clinical diagnoses of AIDS are based on when CD4 cells get below 200-350 cells per microliter of whole blood.
The small, disposable biochip can count CD4+/CD8+ T cells quickly and accurately for HIV diagnosis.
Results of the research have been published in the cover article of the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Not all bioengineers who are using printers in the lab are trying to create tissues or organs. Some are intent on making biological machines.
In the laboratory of Rashid Bashir, head of the bioengineering department at the University of Illinois here, researchers have made small hybrid “biobots” — part gel, part muscle cell — that can move on their own. The research may someday lead to the development of tiny devices that could travel within the body, sensing toxins and delivering medication.
Rashid Bashir, director of the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory at Illinois, will be the next head of the Department of Bioengineering, beginning August 16, 2013.
As Abel Bliss Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Bioengineering, Bashir leads two efforts to train the next generation of leaders in nanotechnology and bioengineering: the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) on Cellular and Molecular Mechanics and Bionanotechnology and the Midwest Cancer Nanotechnology Training Center. These programs are funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, respectively.
He is also co-director of the National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center with Illinois, MIT, Georgia Tech, and partner institutions on Emergent Behavior of Integrated Cellular Systems.
“The bioengineering department is at a crucial point in its history, and we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grow its size and influence. Rashid will be vital to seizing that opportunity and capitalizing on the significant support from the Grainger Engineering Breakthroughs Initiative,” said Michael B. Bragg, interim dean of the College of Engineering.
When Oxford Nanopore Technology (ONT) announced agreements with four American and three British universities to license DNA sensing technology and to fund future research, the University of Illinois was one of the four thanks to ECE Professor Jean-Pierre Leburton, ECE and Bioengineering Professor Rashid Bashir, and Physics Associate Professor Aleksei Aksimentiev—all researchers in the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology—as well as their collaborators and campus support facilities.
Several Beckman and Illinois researchers have contributed over the years in developing solid state nanopore technology, but Leburton, Aksimentiev, and Bashir will be co-Principal Investigators in future research, funded by ONT for developing the DNA sensing method. Their mission is to create what has been a long sought-after goal in genomics research: low-cost, fast, reliable, and highly-accurate sequencing of a person’s whole genome.
“Something like this can have very broad applications, being able to sequence DNA at a very low cost,” Bashir said.
They’re soft, biocompatible, about 7 millimeters long – and, incredibly, able to walk by themselves. Miniature “bio-bots” developed at the University of Illinois are making tracks in synthetic biology.
Designing non-electronic biological machines has been a riddle that scientists at the interface of biology and engineering have struggled to solve. The walking bio-bots demonstrate the Illinois team’s ability to forward-engineer functional machines using only hydrogel, heart cells and a 3-D printer.
With an altered design, the bio-bots could be customized for specific applications in medicine, energy or the environment. The research team, led by U. of I. professor Rashid Bashir, published its results in the journal Scientific Reports.
“The idea is that, by being able to design with biological structures, we can harness the power of cells and nature to address challenges facing society,” said Bashir, an Abel Bliss Professor of Engineering. “As engineers, we’ve always built things with hard materials, materials that are very predictable. Yet there are a lot of applications where nature solves a problem in such an elegant way. Can we replicate some of that if we can understand how to put things together with cells?”
With the aid of a 3-D printer, researchers have fashioned soft, quarter-inch-long biological robots out of gel-like material and rat heart cells. When the cells beat, the bio-bots take a step.
The robots resemble tiny springboards, each with one long, thin leg resting on a stout supporting leg. The thin leg is covered in the heart cells. When the cells beat, the long leg pulses, propelling the bio-bot forward, according to the research team from the University of Illinois.
The main body of the bio-bot consists of hydrogel, a soft gelatin-like polymer, and is built with a 3-D printer. The use of the printer allowed the researchers to rapidly explore various designs in search of one that worked.
This gel is then coated with rat heart cells. “After a few days, the cells synchronize and beat spontaneously,” Rashid Bashir, a professor of electrical, computer, and biological engineering who led the research team, explained to NBC News in an email.
ECE and Bioengineering Professor Rashid Bashir has been recognized with the 2012 IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS) Technical Achievement Award, “for significant contributions to the development of micro and nanoscale biosensors.”
Bashir, an Abel Bliss Professor, directs the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory and is affiliated with the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, the Institute for Genomic Biology, and the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Lab. His research interests include BioMEMS, Lab-on-a-chip, nano-biotechnology, interfacing biology and engineering from molecular to tissue scale, and applications of semiconductor fabrication to biology, all applied to solve biomedical problems.
“This last century could be considered the century of electronics, and this new century is, some people would say, the century of biology and medicine,” Bashir explained. “I’m interested in using nanotechnology, specifically being able to fabricate or build structures at the micro- and nanoscale in silicon using biological materials for medical and clinical applications.
Like any good professor, ECE and Bioengineering Professor Rashid Bashir wants to pass on what he’s learned to students. That goes for both imparting knowledge of science and engineering to the students in his lab, and for passing on his experience when it comes to career choices.
Bashir, the director of the Micro and Nanotechnology Technology Laboratory (MNTL) and a researcher in the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, grew up in Pakistan. He came to America as a teenager with a clear vision of his future: engineering.
“I was always taught from the beginning when I was growing up to be an engineer and build things,” said Bashir, an Abel Bliss Professor of Engineering. “I remember my dad talking to me at that time about inventors and scientists, and Microsoft and Apple and all that was coming about in the 1980s.”
ECE Professor Rashid Bashir has been elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He was one of eight Illinois faculty members elected to this distinction.
“This is great honor,” said Bashir, an Abel Bliss Professor of Engineering and the director of the Micro and Nanotechnology Lab. “I am very pleased to have received this fellowship.”
Bashir is an expert in the application of micro and nanotechnology to biotechnology and medicine. In his research Bashir works to develop what he calls “point of care” sensors. Using nanotechnology, Bashir develops devices that can be used in either a doctor’s office or a patient’s home to perform tests that would previously have been done in a hospital lab and that would have taken several days to perform.
“We are very interested in making devices that can rapidly sense biological entities such as DNA molecules, cancer cells, proteins, characterize and detect bacteria, and detect and count blood cells,” he said.
Researchers have developed a bandage that stimulates and directs blood vessel growth on the surface of a wound. The bandage, called a “microvascular stamp,” contains living cells that deliver growth factors to damaged tissues in a defined pattern. After a week, the pattern of the stamp “is written in blood vessels,” the researchers report.
After the stamp is removed its pattern is revealed in the pattern of blood vessels below. | Photo courtesy Micro and Nanotechnology Lab
A paper describing the new approach will appear as the January 2012 cover article of the journal Advanced Materials.
“Any kind of tissue you want to rebuild, including bone, muscle or skin, is highly vascularized,” said University of Illinois chemical and biomolecular engineering professor Hyunjoon Kong, a co-principal investigator on the study with electrical and computer engineering professor Rashid Bashir. “But one of the big challenges in recreating vascular networks is how we can control the growth and spacing of new blood vessels.”
“The ability to pattern functional blood vessels at this scale in living tissue has not been demonstrated before,” Bashir said. “We can now write features in blood vessels.”
University of Illinois researchers are using a new kind of microsensor to answer one of the weightiest questions in biology – the relationship between cell mass and growth rate.
The team, led by electrical and computer engineering and bioengineering professor Rashid Bashir, published its results in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
“It’s merging micro-scale engineering and cell biology,” said Bashir, who also directs the Micro and Nanotechnology Engineering Laboratory at Illinois. “We can help advance biology by fabricating new tools that can be used to address important questions in cell biology, cancer research and tissue engineering.”
The mechanics of cellular growth and division are important not only for basic biology, but also for diagnostics, drug development, tissue engineering and understanding cancer. For example, documenting these processes could help identify specific drug targets to slow or stop the uncontrolled growth of cancer cells.
On October 18, ECE and Bioengineering Professor Rashid Bashir was one of two faculty members formally invested as an Abel Bliss Professor in the College of Engineering. Also receiving this distinction was Rob Rutenbar of the Department of Computer Science.
In his opening remarks, Interim Vice Chancellor for Research and ECE Professor Ravi Iyer said, “It’s easy for people like Rob and people like Rashid to get awards and recognitions from people outside. It’s when you get that recognition from your peers at home—by far this is the most gratifying recognition that one receives.”
In introducing Bashir, Jimmy Hsia, professor of mechanical science and engineering, said, “Rashid has made far-reaching impact in the field, and significant impact on many people’s careers throughout the country and the world. So he is a most deserving person to receive this distinction.”
A recently announced grant from the National Institutes of Health will establish a new M-CNTC: Midwest Cancer Nanotechnology Training Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Funded by the NIH/NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer, the M-CNTC will serve as a regional hub, partnering with the Mayo Clinic, University of Illinois at Chicago, Washington University at Saint Louis, and the Indiana University School of Medicine.
“This grant is a significant recognition of Illinois’ leadership in nanotechnology and bioengineering,” explained Ilesanmi Adesida, dean of the College of Engineering. “The ultimate goals of the educational component of this program are to train the next generation of researchers and educators in the interdisciplinary area of cancer nanotechnology and to aid the NCI Alliance in building a community of faculty, PhD students, post-docs, and colleagues from clinical institutions to collaborate on education and research.”
ECE and Bioengineering Professor Rashid Bashir and Ann Nardulli, professor of molecular and integrative physiology, are co-principal investigators for the project.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign $25 million to establish a Science and Technology Center named Emergent Behaviors of Integrated Cellular Systems (EBICS). ECE Professor Rashid Bashir will be the leader of Thrust Four, which focuses on enabling technologies of the new center.
The center, headquartered at MIT, will have equal contribution between the three main institutions. These main institutions are partnering with Morehouse College, University of California-Merced, CCNY, and international partners.
The center’s purpose is to develop biological machines, as well as to create bioengineering educational materials and do diversity outreach.
“The center is about building biological machines using cells,” Bashir said. “It’s an exciting new area that interfaces engineering and biology. It’s the next step in synthetic biology.”
At-home diagnostic tests–things like cholesterol tests, pregnancy tests and blood-glucose monitors–are readily available at pharmacies around the world. But ECE and Bioengineering Professor Rashid Bashir sees the possibility for a wider variety for at-home diagnostic tests, moving technologies only in labs to be available at home.
Bashir, director of the Micro and Nanotechology Laboratory, and his group have authored many papers toward this goal. Six of these were highlighted as journal cover articles in 2009. Bashir and his research team are working to create chip-based devices for diagnostics. Each cover highlights different technologies inching closer to bring these technologies to reality.
“We want to make the devices cheap, sensitive, and for a one-time use,” Bashir said. “We want to lower the cost of detection.”