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Issue 15, 2009
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Biological implications of polydimethylsiloxane-based microfluidic cell culture

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Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) has become a staple of the microfluidics community by virtue of its simple fabrication process and material attributes, such as gas permeability, optical transparency, and flexibility. As microfluidic systems are put toward biological problems and increasingly utilized as cell culture platforms, the material properties of PDMS must be considered in a biological context. Two properties of PDMS were addressed in this study: the leaching of uncured oligomers from the polymer network into microchannel media, and the absorption of small, hydrophobic molecules (i.e.estrogen) from serum-containing media into the polymer bulk. Uncured PDMS oligomers were detectable viaMALDI-MS in microchannel media both before and after Soxhlet extraction of PDMS devices in ethanol. Additionally, PDMS oligomers were identified in the plasma membranes of NMuMG cells cultured in PDMS microchannels for 24 hours. Cells cultured in extracted microchannels also contained a detectable amount of uncured PDMS. It was shown that MCF-7 cells seeded directly on PDMS inserts were responsive to hydrophilic prolactin but not hydrophobic estrogen, reflecting its specificity for absorbing small, hydrophobic molecules; and the presence of PDMS floating in wells significantly reduced cellular response to estrogen in a serum-dependent manner. Quantification of estrogenvia ELISA revealed that microchannel estrogen partitioned rapidly into the surrounding PDMS to a ratio of approximately 9:1. Pretreatments such as blocking with serum or pre-absorbing estrogen for 24 hours did not affect estrogen loss from PDMS-based microchannels. These findings highlight the importance of careful consideration of culture system properties when determining an appropriate environment for biological experiments.

Graphical abstract: Biological implications of polydimethylsiloxane-based microfluidic cell culture

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Supplementary files

Article information

13 Feb 2009
14 May 2009
First published
04 Jun 2009

Lab Chip, 2009,9, 2132-2139
Article type
Tutorial Review

Biological implications of polydimethylsiloxane-based microfluidic cell culture

K. J. Regehr, M. Domenech, J. T. Koepsel, K. C. Carver, S. J. Ellison-Zelski, W. L. Murphy, L. A. Schuler, E. T. Alarid and D. J. Beebe, Lab Chip, 2009, 9, 2132
DOI: 10.1039/B903043C

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