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Clinical Applications

Laboratory Medicine

Laboratory Medicine, also known as clinical pathology, serves as a major bridge between basic science and clinical medicine. One of the roles of the laboratory based physician and scientist is to ensure that the on-going scientific advances are made available for better diagnosis of disease and management of patients. Thus, the specialty of laboratory medicine presents us as scientists with unending intellectual challenges.

As consultants, scientists interact with other physicians in various subspecialties of medicine and we participate in the diagnostic work-up of patients and assess their response to treatment. As teachers, faculty discuss new diagnostic approaches and findings with our medical colleagues, house staff and students.

Major interdisciplinary applications in laboratory medicine are the extensive use of robotics for sample handling and assay, automated data generation and preliminary assessment, and the adoption microfluidics (micro-channels on chips) to handle very small quantities of biological materials.

Microchip Laboratory

The Microchip laboratory designs and fabricates silicon -glass microchips for use in clinical analysis. The current work focuses on the design and fabrication of an automated sample processor for blood or bone marrow. This device will comprise an array of miniaturized integrated disposable sample preparation devices designed for cell isolation and amplification of nucleic acid. Preparative functions of the device include cell isolation, cell selection, isolation and amplification of DNA or RNA. The individual disposable microchip-based devices can be replicated and assembled into units of different sizes to fit with specific sample processing needs. The small size of the microchip devices will facilitate the assembly of a massively parallel processor that will produce a large amount of genetic information per unit time. This system will provide much needed simplification and automation of sample preparation essential for large-scale cancer studies, and will be part of a larger system containing an array of analytical systems fed by the individual processing devices. Each device will accept a liquid sample (<10 - 100 mL) and will isolate white cells or sub-sets of white cells, isolate nucleic acid and then deliver the nucleic acid, either directly or after an intermediate amplification step (PCR, RT-PCR) to the detection modules.

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Center for Minimally Invasive Therapy at PENN

The main goal of the Center for Minimally Invasive Therapy at PENN is to bring together clinicians and scientists with mutual interests in all aspects of minimally invasive therapy. The Center will comprise surgeons, radiologists, gynecologists, urologists and others who are interested in practical, diagnostic, and therapeutic aspects of minimally invasive techniques. The Center is focused on fostering the use of minimally invasive approaches in translational research, and hopes to be instrumental in the development of new techniques and technologies which are less traumatic to the patient, while more cost effective for the hospital.

Through the generous support of an educational grant from the United States Surgical Corporation, combined with Departmental and University of Pennsylvania Health System resources, the William T. Fitts, Jr. Surgical Education Center was created. This Center of Excellence is a 2,000 square foot educational facility which houses a library of text and journals, as well as state of the art digital equipment for video viewing, inanimate laparoscopic and endoscopic training equipment and a multi-node local area network consisting of 12 computers. The video equipment is also connected to the OR at University of Pennsylvania Hospital so that students and faculty can view procedures real time and converse with the operating surgeons through microphones placed in both facilities.

Dr. Noel Williams (williamn@uphs.upenn.edu) serves as the Director of both the William T. Fitts, Jr. Surgical Education Center and the Center of Minimally Invasive Therapy at PENN.

General Information:

  • The Surgical Education Center is located on the 4th Floor of the Maloney Building at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, on the corner of 36th and Spruce Streets.
  • Center hours are Monday through Friday, from 8:30 am to 5pm. After hours access is with HUP ID cards with access to the Education Center.
Telephone: 215-614-0591
Fax: 215-614-0590
Email: fittslib@mail.med.upenn.edu

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Health Informatics at Penn (HIP)

Health informatics is an evolving scientific discipline that deals with the collection, storage, retrieval, communication, and optimal use of health related data, information, and knowledge in all basic and applied areas of the biomedical sciences.

Health Informatics is being widely researched and taught at the University of Pennsylvania in a variety of schools and departments. Research in medical informatics is far reaching, straddling the spectrum from basic to applied research and even into the implementation and maintenance of systems over time and space.

Currently we are in the midst of planning out a re-organization to set up a cross-school center for Health Informatics which will help facilitate our collective research and training efforts in the future.

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More information on Laboratory Medicine at Penn can be found at

For more information on the Microchip Laboratory, please contact:
  Dr. Larry Kricka, kricka@mail.med.upenn.edu, or
  Dr. Peter Wilding, pwilding@mail.med.upenn.edu

For more information on the Center for Minimally Invasive Therapy can be found at http://www.med.upenn.edu/surgery/cmitp

For more information on the William T. Fitts, Jr. Surgical Education Center, please visit http://www.med.upenn.edu/surgery/dse/wtfsec.html

For more information about ongoing activities and future plans in Health Informatics at Penn, please visit


Biological Engineering Network at the University of Pennsylvania
1010 Vagelos Research Labs / 3340 Smith Walk / Philadelphia PA 19104-6383
tel. 215-573-6813 ~ fax. 215-573-6815 ~ e-mail: ben-penn@pobox.upenn.edu