The study of cells in a well-defined and chemically programmable microenvironment is essential for a complete and fundamental understanding of the cell behaviors with respect to specific chemical compounds. Flow-free microfluidic devices that generate quasi-steady chemical gradients (spatially varying but temporally constant) have been demonstrated as effective chemotaxis assay platforms due to dissociating the effect of chemical cues from mechanical shear forces caused by fluid flow. In this work, we demonstrate the fabrication and characterization of a flow-free microfluidic platform made of polyethylene glycol diacrylate (PEG-DA) hydrogel. We have demonstrated that the mass transport properties of these devices can be customized by fabricating them from PEG-DA gels of four distinct molecular weights. In contrast to microfluidic devices developed using soft lithography; this class of devices can be realized using a more cost-effective approach of direct photopolymerization with fewer microfabrication steps. This microfluidic platform was tested by conducting a quantitative study of the chemotactic behavior of Escherichia coli (E. coli) RP437, a model microorganism, in presence of the chemo-effector, casamino-acids. Using the microfabrication and characterization methodology presented in this work, microfluidic platforms with well-defined and customizable diffusive properties can be developed to accommodate the study of a wide range of cell types.
Traore, Mahama Aziz, Bahareh Behkam
J. Micromech. Microeng.