Chapter Five
Hydrogel-Based Microfluidic
Cell Culture
Michael C. W. Chen and Karen C. Cheung
Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, University of British Columbia,
2332 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada
Microfluidic technology provides the tools for creating more in vivo-like environments
for cell culture by permitting precise control of chemical concentration gradients,
shear rates, and geometry, among other parameters. Hydrogels, which create a
three-dimensional environment, are now increasingly used to encapsulate cells for
on-chip incubation. As porous polymer networks, hydrogels allow the transport
of nutrients and waste away from embedded cells, and the gel network can also
include specific adhesive properties for cell attachment. The integration of cell culture
and characterization onto a miniaturized platform would permit automated, hands-
free assays. In particular, the ability to manipulate individual cells and small cell
populations represents a large improvement over traditional methods involving large
cell numbers.
Today, microsystem technology for biomedical applications spans a wide range
of biosensors, implantable microdevices, and lab-on-a-chip systems. By reducing
reagent volumes and costs, decreasing analysis times, and increasing through-
put, micro total analysis systems (microTAS) promise to have large impact on
Microfluidics involves the study of ow phenomena and the manipulation
of fluid volumes at the microscale. Microfabrication processes easily permit
production of structures with dimensions of microns or tens of microns, thus
defining fluid volumes in the range of picoliters (1 pL = cube with sides of 10
microns) or below. Since typical mammalian cells are in the range of ten microns
in diameter, miniaturization facilitates manipulation of individual biological cells.
Biomaterials for MEMS, Edited b y M. Chiao and J.-C. Chiao
Copyright © 2011 by Pan Stanford Publishing Pte. Ltd.
SO13997_text.indd 97SO13997_text.indd 97 26/01/2011 3:50 PM26/01/2011 3:50 PM

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