On-chip gradient generation in 256 microfluidic cell cultures: Simulation and experimental validation

Himali Somaweera, Shehan O. Haputhanthri, Akif Ibraguimov, Dimitri Pappas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


A microfluidic diffusion diluter was used to create a stable concentration gradient for dose response studies. The microfluidic diffusion diluter used in this study consisted of 128 culture chambers on each side of the main fluidic channel. A calibration method was used to find unknown concentrations with 12% error. Flow rate dependent studies showed that changing the flow rates generated different gradient patterns. Mathematical simulations using COMSOL Multi-physics were performed to validate the experimental data. The experimental data obtained for the flow rate studies agreed with the simulation results. Cells could be loaded into culture chambers using vacuum actuation and cultured for long times under low shear stress. Decreasing the size of the culture chambers resulted in faster gradient formation (20 min). Mass transport into the side channels of the microfluidic diffusion diluter used in this study is an important factor in creating the gradient using diffusional mixing as a function of the distance. To demonstrate the device's utility, an H2O2 gradient was generated while culturing Ramos cells. Cell viability was assayed in the 256 culture chambers, each at a discrete H2O2 concentration. As expected, the cell viability for the high concentration side channels increased (by injecting H2O2) whereas the cell viability in the low concentration side channels decreased along the chip due to diffusional mixing as a function of distance. COMSOL simulations were used to identify the effective concentration of H2O2 for cell viability in each side chamber at 45 min. The gradient effects were confirmed using traditional H2O2 culture experiments. Viability of cells in the microfluidic device under gradient conditions showed a linear relationship with the viability of the traditional culture experiment. Development of the microfluidic device used in this study could be used to study hundreds of concentrations of a compound in a single experiment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5029-5038
Number of pages10
Issue number15
StatePublished - Feb 5 2015


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