PhD Studentship: The Rapid Diagnosis of Allergy to Drugs using a Microfluidic Platform

Ref: EngSci-BIO-104

Deadline: Applications will be accepted at any time until the position is filled.

Allergic reactions to drugs are common with some 2-3% of hospitalized patients estimated to suffer allergic responses to drugs. However, an allergic basis for many reactions is frequently not recognized, even in fatal reactions. On the other hand, the fear of a repeated allergic reaction can lead (sometimes unnecessarily) to avoidance of the drug treatment of choice. Thus, there is a pressing need for better means for the diagnosis of allergic sensitivity to drugs, and for establishing who may be at risk of a life-threatening reaction.

Currently, the most effective means of establishing a diagnosis involves exposing the patient to the suspected drug, usually by pricking or injecting a small quantity into the skin. Such procedures are expensive, involve the risk of provoking a serious reaction and are performed at few specialist centres. Understanding the underlying cellular and molecular processes should allow development of simple, more rapid tests for drug allergy.

The aim of this project is to develop a microfluidics-based system for rapid diagnosis of allergy to drugs by integrating cross-disciplinary expertise of microfluidic bioengineering and medicine. The main objectives include (i) to assess basophil activation testing methods, (ii) to design and fabrication of microfluidic chips, (iii) to quantify basophil activation in response to drugs on-chip, (iv) to develop a prototype testing system. These studies will rely on the expertise in microfluidics in the Faculty of Engineering & the Environment, and will involve close interaction with biomedical researchers at Southampton General Hospital (where participants will include an established team of medical researchers with appropriate laboratory, clinical and nursing experience).

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If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Dr Xunli Zhang, Bioengineering research group, Email:, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 5099.