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NSERC Presents 2 Minutes With Yu Sun
Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering,
University of Toronto


Video Name

2 Minutes with Yu Sun


NSERC Communications



Release Date

April 29, 2013


Yu Sun is an international leader in developing robotics and automation technologies for manipulating biomaterials, such as precision instrumentation capable of injecting molecules into biological cells. His published work has laid the foundation and sparked worldwide interest in robotic cell manipulation. His research into automated processes for biological cell manipulation is revolutionizing how genetic studies, cancer research and clinical cell surgery and diagnostics are conducted.

Yu Sun

My lab is an engineering laboratory. What we're best at is really using engineering principles to work out functional enabling instruments. On the instruments, many times they are more advantageous than existing ones in terms of functionality. They're automated. They don't need a lot of skills to operate them. It's really the inherent advantages of micro nano engineering that we're leveraging to develop these new technologies.

Once we determine the device dimensions, geometries, functionalities and then we go ahead to our clean rooms on campus to do photo therapy actually and a number of steps. It's very similar to computer chip technology, how to fabricate those, to transfer microstructures into physical structures, build a real device. We work with Mount Sinai Hospital on blood testing, how to use a smaller amount of blood to obtain the same result of commercial instruments. We work with the Canadian Blood Services to quantify stored blood quality to enhance patient safety. And we work with a lot of biologists on fundamental biology experiments.

Behind me here, what are looking at real micro devices. They test human blood cells so when the cells go through our micro devices we measure a number of parameters at a speed about a few hundred cells for second—for example, hemoglobin concentration, cell size, how many white blood cells you have, platelets you have. As we move on, we are starting to be able to measure many things that classical technologies are not able to extract.

And then we started to look into, for example, blood testing in newborn babies. We start to look at leukemia cell diagnostics detection. We start to look into cell deformability, viscosity, permeativity, conductivity. You know, the question we want to ask is really are we able to rapidly, for example within a couple of minutes, to tell the quality, quantify the quality of the particular blood sample right before its transfusion to patients so that patient safety can be enhanced in transfusion medicine.

I was able to form a very talented research team at Toronto over the past eight years so I kept saying this that really all the work happening in the lab were done by my trainees, students and postdoc, are fantastic people in this group. A number of them have gone now to take on faculty positions at great institutions.

So, I sincerely appreciate the small support from NSERC. It's not exaggerating to say that without NSERC support I would not have been doing anything useful in my research environment.

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