HKU Engineering team develops a novel photonic chipscope for label-free monitoring of live cell activities

From left to right: Dr. Yuan Lin; Dr. Zhiqin Chu; Dr. Yong Hou and Mr. Jixiang Jing


The label-free, non-invasive, and quantitative monitoring of cellular activities is critical for understanding the various biological processes and the therapeutic response of cells to drugs. However, existing approaches are often hindered by their multiple time-consuming preparation steps, complicated apparatus, and incompatibility.

An Interdisciplinary collaboration led by Dr. Zhiqin Chu (Electrical and Electronic Engineering, HKU), Dr. Kwai Hei Li (School of Microelectronics, SUST), and Dr. Yuan Lin (Mechanical Engineering, HKU) established a GaN chipscope to quantitatively monitor the progression of different intracellular processes in a label-free manner. This GaN-based monolithic chip enables not only a photoelectric readout of cellular/subcellular refractive index changes but also the direct imaging of cellular/subcellular ultrastructural features using a customized differential interference contrast (DIC) microscope. Especially, this chipscope is highly miniaturized that allows to be readily mounted with conventional cell culture dished and placed inside standard cell incubator for real-time monitoring. This practical device would provide new insight into the fundamental research of cell biology and drug discovery and assist the development new generation of biosensors.

This work entitled “A versatile, incubator-compatible, monolithic GaN photonic chipscope for label-free monitoring of live cell activities” has been published in the top multidisciplinary journal, Advanced Science, 2022, 2200910. A US provisional patent has currently been filed.

Link for the paper:

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