Biologistics Funded Research 2018

Novel 3D Encapsulation Method and Device for Storage and
Transportation of Living Cells for Improved Biologistics Solution

Dr. Pratik Banerjee

The overall goal of this study is to develop a three-dimensional (3D) encapsulation system for long term storage, preservation, and transport of living cells at ambient conditions. Biological agents such as cells (e.g., isolated from human, other vertebrates and non-vertebrates, or bacteria) are important for various applications in human therapeutics and diagnostics. Cell-based assays (CBAs) are emerging as a dependable and promising approach to measure the biological activity of an analyte (Banerjee and Bhunia, 2009). Cell-based biosensors (CBBs) are often used to detect the presence of food- and water-borne toxins and pathogens (Banerjee and Bhunia, 2010). These sensors, often termed as "Functional Detection System", use specially selected cells (bacterial or mammalian) to serve as real-time indicators of the presence toxins or pathogens (Banerjee and Bhunia, 2010; Banerjee et al., 2013). However, the use of living cells in sensors has its own limitations. These include the need for (a) cell preservation methods such as cryopreservation, desiccation, etc., and (b) infrastructure requirements that significantly limit the portability for point-of-use analysis creating significant barriers to shipping and handling logistics of these perishable biologics. In addition, the use of these methods can often lead to changes in the inherent properties and viability of these biologics. To overcome these issues, researchers have used natural and synthetic matrix (e.g., collagen, alginate, agarose, peptide gels) for encapsulation of cells. However, these gel components need to be optimized or each cell type, again not providing a universal plug-and-play system. Hence, there is a significant need for developing a methodology for long term cell storage that allows ambient storage and do not require cryopreservation. To overcome these challenges, in this collaborative proposal with industry, and government partners, we propose to develop and demonstrate a novel three dimensional cell encapsulation platform for long term storage of sensing-relevant cells at ambient conditions. The proposed platform is made of a synthetic disposable, biocompatible and optically clear plastic for storage of the three-dimensional encapsulated cells. The platform will have integrated valves for automated loading of cells, perfusion of nutrients and elimination of waste (if required) and introduction of samples for toxicity analysis. By providing a long term cell storage solution in addition to quantitative and predictive model of toxic samples/events, the proposed device promises to establish a new paradigm for a portable testing and improved cold-chain/ambient biologic logistics.

Smart Sensor Communications Congestion Testing

Dr. Kevin Berisso

Current technological trends are moving the entire supply chain in the direction of "smart" packaging via intelligent sensors, allowing for increased tracking, visibility and control from manufacturing to the end customer. Within biologistics, or really any cold-chain application, the continued introduction of small, inexpensive mobile sensors is resulting in previously un-imagined levels of tracking and control. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) solutions are one of the major reasons for this surge in ability. One of the major advantages of using BLE for sensor communications is that it does not require a connected state for the transmission of sensor data, allowing for a significantly lower infrastructure cost. However, there logically needs to be a point at which the messages will saturate the available communication channels resulting in the potential loss of a critical piece of information (e.g. a shipment of temperature sensitive products is getting too hot). This project will address the issue of lost information due to data packet collisions when BLE devices are used in the "advertising" or non-connected manner. Since large scale BLE based sensor solutions have yet to be deployed in a manner for which this might be a problem, industry's attention is not yet on this issue. It is the goal of this project to not only alert the users, integrators and decision makers of this potential issue, but to provide a level of guidance on what can be done and how to best approach the use of BLE sensors in a high density environment.

Remote End-to-End Temperature Tracking for Regulatory Compliance

Dr. Firouzeh Sabri

Once the shipment arrives at the lab, how can doctors be sure it hasn't been compromised by temperature changes, contamination, or other forces? Dr. Sabri is working on that too, developing low power, wireless sensing gear that can be placed in the package to track pressure, humidity, vibration and most importantly, temperature. "The cold chain supply industry is facing tighter regulations by the government," says Sabri, "and a key parameter that needs to be continuously monitored and recorded with a high degree of accuracy is the storage temperature of the shipped goods during transit and upon delivery." Sabri says this research also has exciting applications for drones that can be employed to carry emergency services and sensitive cargo in extreme conditions.

Development of next-generation energy storage device for the biologistic applications: Nanostructured Energy Storage Device

Dr. Sanjay Mishra and Thang B. Hoang

The proposed project focuses on developing novel oxide based energy storage device for futuristic energy applications related to Biologistic. The main thrust of the research is to develop novel nanostructured based sulfide-based electrodes (MCo2S4, M = Ni, Mn, Cu, Co) for batteries which includes (1) identification of potential materials, (2) development of novel nanostructures with high surface area, and (3) understanding of long-term repeatability and stability of battery materials. The energy dense battery electrodes will allow effective long-distance transport (mobility and controlled environment) of biological specimen and samples at appreciably low cost. The long-term implication is that proposed efforts will result in discovery and engineering of marketable, energy dense, small carbon footprint, cheaper, material for transportation and energy applications. The research efforts will be interwoven with outreach activities including regular seminars, presentations at conferences, and high school student participation in various aspects of the project via on-going summer programs on campus. The proposed project will be carried out by a team of researchers, PI (Dr. Mishra) and Co-PI (Dr. Hoang), and graduate/undergraduate students.

Plasmon-Enhanced Temperature and Humidity Sensing for Biological and Pharmaceutical Shipments

Dr. Mohamed Laradji and Thang Ba Hoang

We propose to develop plasmon-enhanced humidity and temperature sensors, which can be used for remote real-time monitoring of biological materials. These sensors working principle relies on a magnified quantum effect of the interaction between light and matters at the nanoscale, making them highly sensitive (estimated at 0.01oC in temperature and 0.5% in relative humidity) and yet cost effective for possible largescale production. The working principle of the thermal plasmon-enhanced sensor is based on the fact that temperature excursions of a thermally responsive polymer with embedded periodic arrays of nanoparticles lead to different responses to light. The working principle of the humidity plasmon-enhanced sensor is based on changes in the effective thickness of a sub 10-nm thin polymer layer, separating an array of metallic nanoparticles from a metal film, with respect to the moisture levels leading to different responses to light of the nanoparticles. We expect that these plasmon-enhanced temperature and humidity sensors can be developed into fully integrated systems for real-time and remote sensing, which is essential for safe and viable storage and transportation of biological samples and pharmaceutical products.

Post-Disaster Management of Freight Transportation Networks

Dr. Charles V. Camp and Shahram Pezeshk 

The Memphis Metropolitan Area (MMA) is a major intermodal transportation center. A major disaster such as an earthquake, hurricane, flood, or man-made hazard can have significant direct and indirect impacts on local, state, and national economies. The Memphis area transportation system relies heavily on numerous bridges many of which are old and in desperate need of retrofit. Furthermore, many bridges in central United States are inadequately designed to resist seismic loading. Therefore, it is critically important to the post-disaster economic sustainability and recovery of the region to develop a post-disaster freight transportation model of the MMA. Using a geographic information system (GIS) incorpo-rating estimates of hazard impacts on the transportation system and temperature-controlled logistics services demand (cold-chain logistics) a freight transportation model could identify deficiencies in the transport network and provide alternative re-routing for freight traffic. A viable freight transportation sys-tem, responsive to information and conditions on the ground after a disaster, could provide information to reduce the economic impact on the freight transportation system and help evaluate supply chain strategies for improving operation efficiency of the transportation system. This project will also provide invaluable information about the MMA bridge infrastructure which will be a focus of the new presidential administration.

Modeling the freight transportation system with a GIS can provide an accurate and timely methodology to evaluate and manage the MMA network. For example, timely assessments of the effects of local and regional hazards, such as transportation disruptions due earthquakes, flooding, or other man-made conditions on the network, would provide vital information to estimate critical freight transportation net-work characteristics such as the condition and accessibility of roadways and bridges. With information on the effects of hazards collected in a GIS and key transportation performance indicators estimated, critical routes within the system could be evaluated and re-routed if necessary to accommodate vehicle and driver capabilities, transportation network restriction (identified and assessed post-disaster), and customer demands.

In a post-disaster environment, a freight transportation network model could provide possible detours for freight traffic movements. In addition, this network model could be utilized as a framework for devel-oping and implementing innovative multi-hazard strategies and methods for rapidly assessing economic impacts on temperature-controlled logistics service

Microcapsule Embedding Techniques for Self-Healing and Recovery of Polymeric Aerogels in Cold-Chain Logistics

Simulation and Optimization of Advanced Aerogel Packaging Solution for Cold-Chain Biologistics

 Dr. Jeffrey Marchetta

Long distance transportation of biological and pharmaceutical materials is currently limited due to the fact that most containers have a limited time that temperatures inside the containers can be kept steady and at the required low temperature. In some cases expensive and heavy data loggers are used that need to be returned to the vendor upon delivery of the biological and pharmaceutical products. Aerogels are currently known as the best insulating material and have demonstrated superior thermal insulating capability (R-value/inch=10.3) compared to materials routinely used in the shipping and storage industry such as extruded polystyrene (R-value/inch=4.1) and polyurethane foam (R-value/inch=6.9). Its light-weight and biologically-friendly nature makes this material an excellent choice for biologistic packaging solutions. Preliminary experiment data and modeling performed by the team has demonstrated the feasibility of using the aerogel as a component material in wide variety of low temperature (77K-273K) applications. Modeling was used to further optimize the aerogel packaging in a previous effort to maximize thermal insulation capability with respect to conventional packaging dimensions. Here, we propose simulating a full-scale aerogel-based packaging solution for transporting vials under realistic thermal loads that the package would experience during transport from packaging to delivery. The results obtained using a full-scale fluid thermal simulation of the aerogel packaging material will be compared to results obtained using other conventional packaging materials (such as polystyrene and polyurethane foam) to demonstrate the feasibility of using this novel aerogel solution for cold-chain biological shipping.

Developing Evidence-Based Best Practices for Shipping Cell Cultures

Dr. Omar Skalli, Amy Abell and Judith Cole

Transportation of cultured cells is an important aspect of biologistics as it is vital for biomedical research and to the operation of pharmaceutical and biotech companies. There are two practices used to transport cultured cells: 1) frozen in culture medium containing dimethyl sulfoxide and using dry ice (-80˚C) to prevent thawing and 2) unfrozen in a flask filled with culture medium maintained at ambient temperature (typically 20-25˚C). Both methods depart from the optimal conditions used to grow and maintain cultured cells at 37˚C in flasks filled with culture medium and air to allow for gas exchange between cells and the air. While these two practices maintain decent cell viability, they cause cellular stress that may temporarily or permanently affect cellular properties. As a consequence, the phenotype of the cells received may differ from that of the cells prior to shipping. Here, we propose to examine this possibility by determining whether transportation protocols affect cell signaling, epigenetic chromatin modifications, and cytoskeletal architecture to result in permanent changes in cellular properties. Since there are thousands of different cell types, we will also investigate whether various cells types differ in their response to transportation protocols. Results from these investigations will be important for biologistics as they will help to develop evidence-based best practices for the transportation of cultured cells.