Hyper-compliant polymer particles


Polymer microbeads have been used extensively for biomedical applications, including device calibration, drug delivery, tissue engineering, and encapsulation of therapeutic agents. But their effectiveness is limited by the lack of microbeads that are similar to living cells. Our novel method is the first to produce polymer microbeads with size, stiffness, and spherical shape similar to those of typical mammalian cells.

Market Opportunity

Current methods for producing polymer microbeads for biomedical purposes do not result in microbeads with sizes and stiffnesses like those of living cells, significantly limiting their usefulness. The ability to produce biomimicking polymer microbeads would greatly expand their usefulness in both biomedical and materials applications.

Innovation and Meaningful Advantages

We have invented a way to use inverse emulsification to fabricate polyacrylamide microbeads with size, elasticity, and spherical shape similar to those of typical mammalian cells. Specifically, the microbeads can be engineered to have a stiffness between 0.01kPa and 10kPa.  They can be fluorescently stained and functionalized with a collagen coating, allowing them to be used for tracking bead locations and for cell recognition and binding.

The microbeads could be used as biomarkers for identifying particular cell types or diseases, such as cancer, sickle cell, and diabetes. Microfluidic devices, for example, can isolate rare, circulating tumor cells from blood based on their unique size and deformability. Currently, however, there are no reference materials that combine appropriate size and stiffness. Microbeads produced by our method could be used to test and calibrate such devices for the characterization, manipulation, and sorting of cells.

Collaboration Opportunity

We are interested in exploring 1) collaborations with leading medical research companies; and 2) licensing opportunities with companies.

Principal Investigator

Eric M. Darling, PhD
Associate Professor of Medical Science
Associate Professor of Engineering
Associate Professor of Orthopedics
Brown University

IP Information

US Utility US-2019-0329210-A1, Published October 31, 2019


Labriola N, Mathiowitz E, Darling EM. Fabricating Polyacrylamide Microbeads by Inverse Emulsification to Mimic the Size and Elasticity of Living Cells. Biomaterials Science 2017;1:1-5. doi.org/10.1039/C6BM00692B.   



Melissa Simon, PhD
Director of Business Development
Brown Tech ID 2460


Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Brown Technology Innovations
350 Eddy Street - Box 1949
Providence, RI 02903
Eric Darling
Edith Mathiowitz
Nicholas Labriola
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