Our demonstrator is very promising and could be applied in many different fields (Yoututbe).
However, it suffers from the fact that a specialist is still needed to exchange used cell-layers with new ones. This fact turns out to be a disadvantage for routine utilization.
The concept we have developed can lead to a Nespresso-type cartridge system. This could be produced by a cell-layer production facility in a laboratory. This would allow a separation between the production of the cell-layer and the continuous survey or long term experiment with them. This would be a break-through approach for using epithelial cell barrier models.
We would like to apply this innovative approach for continuous monitoring of water purity in freshwater and waste-water after treatment, in animal-free investigations. In order to produce a well-designed cell-incubator sensor with cartridge, a strong inter-relation between different fields, like industrial design with ECAL, and technologies is required. The Nespresso-type cartridge would hold a membrane on which cells were grown, and basics sensors. The holder of the cartridge contains additional sensors already developed (CO2 measurement, automatic microscope observation, fluorescence, UV-A spectrometry, bioelectrical parameters e.g. TEER).
Besides the existing ultrathin membrane (CSEM), a new simple and low-cost membrane will be developed (by HE-Arc Ingénierie).
For water sample monitoring, a new culture process for fish derived cell barriers will be established (HEI-VS). On the ultrathin membrane, a barrier system of different cell types including fish gill and gut will be constructed. In addition, a 3D barrier system with multilayers, and a renal cell-barrier serving for liquid filtrations, will consolidate and provide perspective applications of this water monitoring system (hepia).
The new autonomous cell-incubator will be run for calibrating established standards for environmental water monitoring, chemicals/drug, as well as for food and nanoparticles. The federal institute EAWAG, with their fish cells, the CSEM institute, with their ultrathin membrane, and the EPFL are all waiting for an “ubiquitous portable cell-incubator”.
A world-wide recognized, European water company is also looking for such a non-restricted toxin monitoring system. This project offers a remarkable opportunity to the HES-SO to bridge fundamental development with routine applications.