Microfabrication of chip-sized scaffolds for three-dimensional cell cultivation
Giselbrecht, S. / Gottwald, E. / Truckenmueller, R. / Trautmann, C. / Welle, A. / Guber, A. / Saile, V. / Gietzelt T. / Weibezahn, K.F. (2008)
J Vis Exp, 2008,(15), pii:699, doi: 10.3791/699
- Date: Mai 2008
Using microfabrication technologies is a prerequisite to create scaffolds of reproducible geometry and constant quality for three-dimensional cell cultivation. These technologies offer a wide spectrum of advantages not only for manufacturing but also for different applications. The size and shape of formed cell clusters can be influenced by the exact and reproducible architecture of the microfabricated scaffold and, therefore, the diffusion path length of nutrients and gases can be controlled.
This is unquestionably a useful tool to prevent apoptosis and necrosis of cells due to an insufficient nutrient and gas supply or removal of cellular metabolites. Our polymer chip, called CellChip, has the outer dimensions of 2 x 2 cm with a central microstructured area. This area is subdivided into an array of up to 1156 microcontainers with a typical dimension of 300 m edge length for the cubic design (cp- or cf-chip) or of 300 m diameter and depth for the round design (r-chip). So far, hot embossing or micro injection moulding (in combination with subsequent laborious machining of the parts) was used for the fabrication of the microstructured chips.
Basically, micro injection moulding is one of the only polymer based replication techniques that, up to now, is capable for mass production of polymer microstructures. However, both techniques have certain unwanted limitations due to the processing of a viscous polymer melt with the generation of very thin walls or integrated through holes. In case of the CellChip, thin bottom layers are necessary to perforate the polymer and provide small pores of defined size to supply cells with culture medium e.g. by microfluidic perfusion of the containers.
In order to overcome these limitations and to reduce the manufacturing costs we have developed a new microtechnical approach on the basis of a down-scaled thermoforming process. For the manufacturing of highly porous and thin walled polymer chips, we use a combination of heavy ion irradiation, microthermoforming and track etching. In this so called "SMART" process (Substrate Modification And Replication by Thermoforming) thin polymer films are irradiated with energetic heavy projectiles of several hundred MeV introducing so-called "latent tracks" Subsequently, the film in a rubber elastic state is formed into three dimensional parts without modifying or annealing the tracks. After the forming process, selective chemical etching finally converts the tracks into cylindrical pores of adjustable diameter.