Microfluidic Cell Culture Devices

Applications

These novel methods enable the mass production of microfluidic devices from cyclic olefin copolymer (COC) with various features including pumps. valves, accumulators, pressure regulators and pressure sensors for a wide range of applications such as the study of cellular interactions or pharmacokinetic studies.

Problem Addressed

The COC devices address the many problems inherent to the use of microfluidic devices made of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), such as incompatibility with organic solvents, low mechanical strength, and tendency to absorb small molecules. Typical bonding methods for joining COC materials with each other or with glass and poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) often involve flammable, toxic chemicals, or high temperatures. Sometimes the bonding material leaks into the channels of the microfluidic device, or a channel collapses, leading to a blockage and defective device. The use of toxic chemicals also runs the risk of leaving residue behind that can negatively affect one’s cellular experiments or interfere with other chemical reactions in the device. Some of the current manufacturing methods with COC also require specialized equipment. However, the methods described in this patent avoid the above disadvantages.

Technology

The novel method for bonding COC materials to glass, PMMA, or other COC materials for creating microfluidic devices involves just a thin film of elastomeric material, a metal clamp, an oven, and a refrigerator. First, a coating of the elastomeric material is sandwiched between the two pieces to be bonded, then a clamp is used to hold the layers together before placing the pieces in an oven to slowly heat up to 84°C. Afterwards, the bonded part is rapidly cooled to 4°C and is ready for use. Other methods in this patent describe diaphragm micropumps for complete displacement of fluid and stable flow, quick release tops for easy access to cell culture along with means of incorporating hydrogels for said cell culture, and many other features.

Advantages

  • High optical transparency and gas permeability while not absorbing small molecules enables healthy cell culture and easy imaging in the microfluidic devices made of COC. 
  • Stronger bond strength than PDMS devices decreases breakdown and leaks of device. 
  • Manufacturing of COC microfluidic devices with simple, safe resources instead of flammable, toxic chemicals or high temperatures. 
  • Methods for manufacturing features that sense and regulate pressure, allow for precise control of flowrates, and pressure throughout the device. 
  • Highly tunable design.