A research proposal by SEECS faculty members, Dr. Osman Hasan and Dr. Saad Qaiser, on developing an automated cell micro-injection system has been accepted by National ICTR&D fund. They have awarded 38.5 Million PK Rs. for the execution of this project for a duration of 30 months.
A cell microinjection system is a widely used tool in the domain of cell biology and it allows us to deliver a specific amount of substance into a cell using a fine tipped needle (or a microinjection pipette) under the observation of a microscope. Cell microinjection systems are widely used for delivering drugs to a single cell for the treatment of diseases, like Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Sickle cell anemia and Cystic fibrosis etc, developing organs, like heart, lungs and kidney, and in-vitro fertilization (commonly known as test tube babies). The cost of most commercially available microinjection systems is in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars, which makes their purchase and usage in developing countries like Pakistan very rare. This is one of the biggest reasons for the limited amount of research done in the areas of cell biology, Genetic engineering, transgenetics and cloning, in the developing nations. As a first step towards overcoming this limitation, the SEECS has proposed three main development objectives: (i) Develop a virtual reality simulator along with a joystick like manipulator for training scientists to use manual microinjection systems. This training is expected to lower the human-error rates in the cell injection process and thus would make the existing system, which costs less than 100$, a feasible option for many scientists in Pakistan and other developing nations. (ii) Our next objective is to upgrade the manual cell injection system to a semi-automatic cell injection system, where the operator of the system can view the cells on his computer screen and perform the injection process via a joystick like manipulator, which is in turn controlling motors to perform the actual cell injection. This system increases the reliability of the process and also makes the whole procedure more comfortable for the operator. (iii) Our third objective is to capitalize on the strong broadband connection system in Pakistan and provide remote access to the microinjection system. This way, remote users just require the manipulator of the system and our software and then can perform their experiments at a central lab, where the real microinjection system is available. This kind of access would provide a very economical way of conducting state-of-the-art research to the molecular biology scientists of Pakistan.