Project Overview

NER: Integration of Nanoscale Photonics with Silicon MEMS Injector for Studies on the Embryonic Development Through Calibrated Genetic Perturbation

# 0609413
Xiaojing Zhang (Principal Investigator)

The objective of this research is to integrate nano-scale photonic science and engineering with microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) on silicon to systematically study gene functions and to understand new molecular mechanisms that are important for development and disease. The proposed investigations are aimed at identifying, through high-throughput RNA-interference (RNAi) microinjection on self-assembled Drosophila embryos, the functions of the new proteins that have been inferred from the Drosophila genome sequence. The approaches are: (1) Design and fabrication of 2-D photonic crystal based force sensor integrated with a silicon MEMS injector. The force microscopy is provided by the same injector with an integrated nano-photonic displacement sensor based on photonic crystals suspended on micro-cantilevers. (2) Numerical and nano-optical characterization of fluidic self-assembly enabling massively parallel RNAi microinjection.

Intellectual Merit:
The proposed nanoscale devices and system architecture will be extendable to testing and understanding the mechanics of development of other model organisms and cells. The ultimate goal is the development of nano-scale engineering-active substrates tailoring organism (embryos, cells and tissues) development with controllable genetic characteristics. The broader impact of the research enables massively parallel fundamental genetics research, proteomics, and rapid and miniaturized drug discovery efforts.

Broader Impact:
The research plan is also synergized with the core educational initiative of NSF NER on integrating nanoscale photonics, micro-nano devices, computing and biochemistry into fundamental biological studies at levels ranging from single molecules, to cells, and tissues, with applications to improve diagnostic sensing and imaging modalities. The resulting research and educational processes, materials and technologies will be readily accessible and widely disseminated.

Source: NSF