A high-performance polydimethylsiloxane electrospun membrane for cell culture in lab-on-a-chip
Thin porous membranes are important components in a microfluidic device, serving as separators, filters, and scaffolds for cell culture. However, the fabrication and the integration of these membranes possess many challenges, which restrict their widespread applications. This paper reports a facile technique to fabricate robust membrane-embedded microfluidic devices. We integrated an electrospun membrane into a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) device using the simple plasma-activated bonding technique. To increase the flexibility of the membrane and to address the leakage problem, the electrospun membrane was fabricated with the highest weight ratio of PDMS to polymethylmethacrylate (i.e., 6:1 w/w). The membrane-integrated microfluidic device could withstand a flow rate of up to 50 μl/min. As a proof of concept, we demonstrated that such a compartmentalized microfluidic platform could be successfully used for cell culture with the capability of providing a more realistic in vivo-like condition. Human lung cancer epithelial cells (A549) were seeded on the membrane from the top microchannel, while the continuous flow of the culture medium through the bottom microchannel provided a shear-free cell culture condition. The tortuous micro-/nanofibers of the membrane immobilized the cells within the hydrophobic micropores and with no need of extracellular matrix for cell adhesion and cell growth. The hydrophobic surface conditions of the membrane were suitable for anchorage-independent cell types. To further extend the application of the device, we qualitatively showed that rinsing the membrane with ethanol prior to cell seeding could temporarily render the membrane hydrophilic and the platform could also be used for anchorage-dependent cells. Due to the three-dimensional (3D) topography of the membranes, three different configurations were observed, including individual single cells, monolayer cells, and 3D cell clusters. This cost-effective and robust compartmentalized microfluidic device may open up new avenues in translational medicine and pharmacodynamics research. © 2018 Author(s).