Biomedical Microdevices

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 325–339 | Cite as

NanoLiterBioReactor: Long-Term Mammalian Cell Culture at Nanofabricated Scale

  • Ales Prokop
  • Zdenka Prokop
  • David Schaffer
  • Eugene Kozlov
  • John Wikswo
  • David Cliffel
  • Franz Baudenbacher


There is a need for microminiaturized cell-culture environments, i.e. NanoLiter BioReactors (NBRs), for growing and maintaining populations of up to several hundred cultured mammalian cells in volumes three orders of magnitude smaller than those contained in standard multi-well screening plates. These devices would enable the development of a new class of miniature, automated cell-based bioanalysis arrays for monitoring the immediate environment of multiple cell lines and assessing the effects of drug or toxin exposure.

We fabricated NBR prototypes, each of which incorporates a culture chamber, inlet and outlet ports, and connecting microfluidic conduits. The fluidic components were molded in polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) using soft-lithography techniques, and sealed via plasma activation against a glass slide, which served as the primary culture substrate in the NBR. The input and outlet ports were punched into the PDMS block, and enabled the supply and withdrawal of culture medium into/from the culture chamber (10–100 nL volume), as well as cell seeding. Because of the intrinsically high oxygen permeability of the PDMS material, no additional CO2/air supply was necessary.

The developmental process for the NBR typically employed several iterations of the following steps: Conceptual design, mask generation, photolithography, soft lithography, and proof-of-concept culture assay. We have arrived at several intermediate designs. One is termed “circular NBR with a central post (CP-NBR),” another, “perfusion (grid) NBR (PG-NBR),” and a third version, “multitrap (cage) NBR (MT-NBR),” the last two providing total cell retention.

Three cells lines were tested in detail: a fibroblast cell line, CHO cells, and hepatocytes. Prior to the culturing trials, extensive biocompatibility tests were performed on all materials to be employed in the NBR design. To delineate the effect of cell seeding density on cell viability and survival, we conducted separate plating experiments using standard culture protocols in well-plate dishes. In both experiments, PicoGreen assays were used to evaluate the extent of cell growth achieved in 1–5 days following the seeding. Low seeding densities resulted in the absence of cell proliferation for some cell lines because of the deficiency of cell-cell and extracellular matrix (ECM)-cell contacts. High viabilities were achieved in all designs.

We conclude that an instrumented microfluidics-based NanoBioReactor (NBR) will represent a dramatic departure from the standard culture environment. The employment of NBRs for mammalian cell culture opens a new paradigm of cell biology, so far largely neglected in the literature.

nanobioreactor long-term mammalian culture 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ales Prokop
    • 1
    • 2
  • Zdenka Prokop
    • 1
  • David Schaffer
    • 3
  • Eugene Kozlov
    • 2
  • John Wikswo
    • 1
  • David Cliffel
    • 1
  • Franz Baudenbacher
    • 4
  1. 1.NanoDelivery, Inc.Nashville
  2. 2.Chemical EngineeringVanderbilt UniversityNashville
  3. 3.Mechanical EngineeringUSA
  4. 4.Biomedical EngineeringUSA

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