A Bioelectric Device to Program Cell Migration in Multiple Dimensions

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Cell migration is extremely important in development, healing and regeneration, and disease progression. However, to date there are no commercial tools that allow such migration to be fully controlled in real-time and literally programmed by a user. Some existing technologies, including the “chemotaxis” process which uses chemical cues to direct cells are limited by the specific cell types and also lack the ability to precisely program the cells’ motion.


A team of researchers in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University has invented a new device leveraging a little-known bioelectric phenomenon to steer cellular motion and growth in living tissues. This new device allows the user to program the migration of both single cells and large, cellular ensembles in vitro and in real-time. By programming specific electrical fields into the tissue in multiple dimensions, the user can predict and control exactly how a tissue will grow. With the significance of coordinated cell motion and growth, this new technology has exciting applications from fundamental research to regenerative medicine.



• Standardized migration assays in pharmaceutical development

• Wound healing and other regenerative process

• Formal electro-bioreactor allowing long-term culture and electrostimulation of engineered tissues



• Two-dimensional control over cell migration and growth

• Real-time, in vitro and programmable control ability

• Work with most known mammalian cells

• Low cost and easy to manufacture


Stage of Development

The inventors have prototyped the new device in their laboratory and demonstrated the device’s efficacy at programming cell migration using both engineered kidney and skin tissues. Currently the inventors are using electroplated silver chloride electrodes which may limit the device’s durability during long-term use. Electrodes with other materials like carbon or conductive polymers can improve the durability. Also more electrodes may be added in the future to optimize the electric field geometries.



Daniel J. Cohen is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University. He received B.S.E in Mechanical Engineering from Princeton University and Ph.D in Bioengineering from joint program between UC Berkeley and UCSF under the supervision of Professor Michel Maharbiz. He completed his postdoctoral training in Cell Biology at Stanford University under Professor James Nelson. His current research focuses on understanding, building and healing tissues with the ability to control the cellular collective behaviors.


Thomas Zajdel


Gawoon Shim


Intellectual Property Status

Patent protection is pending. Princeton is currently seeking commercial partners for the further development and commercialization of this opportunity.


Prabhpreet Gill

Princeton University Office of Technology Licensing • (609) 258-6762• psgill@princeton.edu



Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Prabhpreet Gill
Licensing Associate
Princeton University
Daniel Cohen
Thomas Zajdel
Gawoon Shim