Development of a Flow-free Gradient Generator Using a Self-Adhesive Thiol-acrylate Microfluidic Resin/Hydrogel (TAMR/H) Hybrid System

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Microfluidic gradient generators have been used to study cellular migration, growth, and drug response in numerous biological systems. One type of device combines a hydrogel and polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) to generate "flow-free" gradients; however, their requirements for either negative flow or external clamps to maintain fluid-tight seals between the two layers have restricted their utility among broader applications. In this work, a two-layer, flow-free microfluidic gradient generator was developed using thiol-ene chemistry. Both rigid thiol-acrylate microfluidic resin (TAMR) and diffusive thiol-acrylate hydrogel (H) layers were synthesized from commercially available monomers at room temperature and pressure using a base-catalyzed Michael addition. The device consisted of three parallel microfluidic channels negatively imprinted in TAMR layered on top of the thiol-acrylate hydrogel to facilitate orthogonal diffusion of chemicals to the direction of flow. Upon contact, these two layers formed fluid-tight channels without any external pressure due to a strong adhesive interaction between the two layers. The diffusion of molecules through the TAMR/H system was confirmed both experimentally (using fluorescent microscopy) and computationally (using COMSOL). The performance of the TAMR/H system was compared to a conventional PDMS/agarose device with a similar geometry by studying the chemorepulsive response of a motile strain of GFP-expressing . Population-based analysis confirmed a similar migratory response of both wild-type and mutant in both of the microfluidic devices. This confirmed that the TAMR/H hybrid system is a viable alternative to traditional PDMS-based microfluidic gradient generators and can be used for several different applications.

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ACS applied materials & interfaces

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