Engineering Physics

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Thomas Gervais

Fluid mechanics ● Lab-on-a-chip ● Cancer

Thomas Gervais, associate professor, joined the Department of Engineering Physics in 2013.

His interests include studies of fluid flow, material transport and heat transfer in microstructures and the design of lab-on-a-chip devices to accelerate cancer research.

 

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lab-on-a-chip devices

Professor Gervais is engaged in the design of lab-on-a-chip devices, which are miniaturized systems that can perform multiple tasks normally done by laboratory biologists, making analysis faster, more accurate and less costly.

These tiny laboratories are the perfect solution to a recurrent problem in medicine: the small amount of biological material obtained in collection (e.g., blood or saliva sampling, tissue biopsies) and the length of time required for collection, analysis and communication of the results to the patient.

In collaboration with his colleagues at the Université de Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) and the Institut du Cancer de Montréal, of which he is a member, Professor Gervais develops chips that fit in the palm of a hand, which can keep tiny tumour samples (less than 0.5 mm in diameter) alive to directly test the efficacy of chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment on them, outside the body. Hundreds of microdissected tumour samples can be produced from a patient biopsy sample with a volume of just 1 cm3, so as to acquire personalized information enabling selection of the best course of treatment for a particular patient.

Development of lab-on-a-chip devices requires expert knowledge of biology, fluid mechanics and biochemical transport; that is, how molecules move and interact in cellular environments. With thorough understanding the underlying theories and fundamental principles of these fields, novel devices can be developed that help push the boundaries of biomedical analysis and continuously improve the quality of disease prevention and care delivery.

(c) Laboratoire Thomas Gervais

Personalized medicine

Modern medicine, no matter how advanced, is not an exact science. It is constantly evolving, its practitioners relying on the best available scientific data to make decisions that maximize care quality while taking a number of constraints into account. Often—as in the case of cancer—there are several possible treatments for the same disease. The goal of personalized medicine is to develop tools that can be used directly in patients to detect subtle clues that enable matching of the right treatment to the right person. Those clues are often genetic or biochemical in nature, but other promising approaches exist, such as direct evaluation of the efficacy of various treatments on a patient’s cells before the final choice is made.