Theses Doctoral

Leveraging Microtechnology to Study Multicellular Microvascular Systems and Macromolecular Interaction

Parsa, Hesam

Biological systems are large-scale, complex systems comprised of many hierarchical subsystems interacting physico-chemically in a dynamic and coordinated fashion. The complex interactions of subsystems (in micro-scale) lead to the formation of emergent properties (in macro-scale); these are properties that are not visible if individual subsystems are studied. The inherent high-throughput characteristics of microfabrication technology (microtechnology) along with its ability to manipulate biological species at the micro-scale makes it an ideal tool to elucidate the mechanisms leading to the formation of emergent properties at the macro-scale.

In this dissertation, by combining microtechnologies with advanced computational algorithms, we demonstrate system-level analysis of biological systems in development and disease. The abundance of high quality molecular and genetic data along with the drastic increase in computational power resulted in considerable progress in genomics, epigenomics and proteomics, but not for the so-called cellomics as we define it here: high-throughput study of single-cell phenotype and heterotypic cell-cell interaction via micromanipulation and bioinformatics analysis. Lack of high-throughput robust experimental tools is the major roadblock to cellomics. Using microtechnologies, in the context of developmental biology we studied vascular tissue morphogenesis (vasculogenesis). Formation of microvessels is of critical significance in development and for vascularizing newly engineered tissues in regenerative medicine.

First, we sought to map the heterogeneous morphodynamic behavior of individual clonal cells in the process of capillary-like structure (CLS) formation (Chapter 2 and 3). Then we looked into deciphering the role of extracellular matrix (ECM) mediated mechanical signals in deriving the process of CLS formation (Chapter 4). In the second half of this thesis, we demonstrated the capabilities of microtechnologies and advanced computational algorithms in tackling the challenging problems in disease: global health diagnostics and cancer drug screening.

First, we studied the performance of microfluidic-based diagnostic as a large-scale complex system under real-world constraints (Chapter 5). Then, we present the development of two microfluidic-based platforms to study the heterotypic interaction of cells in both a biomimetic in vitro and a realistic in vivo setting. We developed an implantable construct carrying a densely-packed heterogeneous panel of tumor cells. This platform could ultimately be used to test anti-cancer drug efficacy against a large number of genotypes in an in vivo setting (Appendices A and B).

Together, these methods provide a powerful suite of tools for high-throughput analysis of biological species at the micro-scale and could potentially unlock the mysteries behind the emergent properties observed at the macro-scale.


  • thumnail for Parsa_columbia_0054D_11333.pdf Parsa_columbia_0054D_11333.pdf application/pdf 4.6 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Biomedical Engineering
Thesis Advisors
Sia, Samuel K.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 30, 2013