Dissertation Title and Summary

Deep Learning-reinforced Engineering of Pancreatic Organoids with Micro-nano Biomaterials for Type 1 Diabetes Treatment

Type 1 diabetes affects 1.6 million people in the United States and 20 million people worldwide. Popular current treatment methods for type 1 diabetes involve multiple daily insulin shots or an insulin pump, which can be very burdensome to patients. These administration methods can lead to hyper and hypoglycemia which can cause organ damage and even death in some situations.

 Another method that is less disruptive to daily life is whole pancreatic transplantation. This method prevents the need for daily insulin injections and blood monitoring but involves invasive surgery and requires patients to be on immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives to prevent organ rejection. A more non-invasive method that has been the focus of a lot of research in recent years is islet transplantation. Islets are the part of the pancreas that contain insulin producing beta cells, and by transplanting only the islets this allows for less invasive surgery with fewer complications.  The reason islet transplantation has not become widely clinically used is because islet graft rejection is common, and patients must still be put on immunosuppressive drugs for the rest of their lives. A lot of research has been done to try to improve islets transplantation, including microencapsulation of islets to prevent rejection.

 My research focuses on improved islet microencapsulation methods through the use of microfluidics and improved biomaterials to create pancreatic organoids. I am also working on preventing post-transplantation cell death by incorporating nano-encapsulated antioxidants into the pancreatic organoids, as well as the removal of empty microcapsules using a deep learning-based on-chip sorting mechanism for improved transplantation outcomes.


Alisa White is a doctoral candidate at the University of Maryland, College Park studying Bioengineering. She is part of the Multiscale Biomaterials Engineering Laboratory and her research focuses on using biomaterials, microfluidics, deep learning, and other engineering technologies to improve type 1 diabetes treatments. Alisa received her Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Biomedical Engineering from Northwestern University. Her research then involved HIV prevention using PrEP based implants. She is involved in the National Society of Black Engineers and is also a National GEM Consortium fellow. One of her goals is to give black students more access to resources in order to study and succeed in Engineering.


White, A.M., Zhang, Y., Shamul, J.G., Xu, J., Kwizera, E.A., Jiang, B., and He, X. Deep learning-enabled label-free on-chip detection and selective extraction of cell aggregate-laden hydrogel microcapsules. Small 2021; 2100491

White, A.M., Shamul, J.G., Xu, J., Stewart, S., Bromberg, J.S., and He, X. Engineering strategies to improve islet transplantation for type 1 diabetes therapy. ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering 2020; 6: 2543-2562.

Kwizera, E.A., Sun, M., White, A.M., Li, J., and He, X. Methods of generating dielectrophoretic force for microfluidic manipulation of bioparticles. ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering 2021; https://doi.org/10.1021/acsbiomaterials.1c00083

Xu, J., Shamul, J.G., Staten, N.A., White, A.M., Jiang, B., and He, X. Bioinspired 3D culture in nanoliter hyaluronic acid-rich core-shell hydrogel microcapsules isolates highly pluripotent human iPSCs. Small 2021; accept

Wang, H., Liang, Y., Yin, Y., Zhang, J., Su, W., White, A.M., Jiang, B., Xu, J., Zhang, Y., Stewart, S., Lu, X., and He, X. Carbon nano-onion-mediated dual targeting of P-selectin and P-glycoprotein to overcome cancer drug resistance. Nature Communications 2021; 12: 312