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Graduate STEM Fellow Profile

Steven Santana

Project Title: CLIMB: Cornell's Learning Initiative in Medicine and Bioengineering
Thesis: Utilizing Desthiobiotinylated Antibodies for Cell Capture and Release
College/University: Cornell University
Research Advisor: Brian J. Kirby
Degree Sought: Ph.D., Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Department: Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Research Focus: Rare cell capture and release in microfluidic devices
Teaching Partner(s): Gene Evans

Description of Research

Rare cell capture from blood is exciting owing to the potential to derive clinical benefit with minimal inconvenience and discomfort to patients. Information derived from rare cells (e.g., fetal cells in mothers or cancer cells in cancer patients) can be used in lieu of information from biopsies and thus improve patient outcomes. Microfluidic devices are ideally suited for these processes, owing to the flexibility of geometric design, wealth of chemical manipulation techniques, and assay compatibility of current systems. Stokes flow analysis is often a good predictor of the flows in these systems. Our current work, in collaboration with Neil Bander, Evi Giannakakou, and David Nanus at Weill Cornell Medical Center, is focused on microfluidic capture of circulating tumor cells from prostate cancer patients with a view towards preclinical evaluation of chemotherapeutic efficacy.

Example of how my research is integrated into my GK-12 experience

A primary factor in isolating rare cell types from biological samples includes identifying unique surface markers by which the cell can be distinguished from others. While these markers often occur on multiple cell types, researchers can devise methods for detecting unique and shared markers on the cell of interest. Students will be afforded an opportunity to develop methods for finding which markers exist on various cell types and propose methods by which this information can inform patient treatment.

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