Microfabricated tuneable and transferable porous PDMS membranes for Organs-on-Chips
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We present a novel and highly reproducible process to fabricate transferable porous PDMS membranes for PDMS-based Organs-on-Chips (OOCs) using microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) fabrication technologies. Porous PDMS membranes with pore sizes down to 2.0 mu m in diameter and a wide porosity range (2-65%) can be fabricated. To overcome issues normally faced when using replica moulding and extend the applicability to most OOCs and improve their scalability and reproducibility, the process includes a sacrificial layer to easily transfer the membranes from a silicon carrier to any PDMS-based OOC. The highly reliable fabrication and transfer method does not need of manual handling to define the pore features (size, distribution), allowing very thin (< 10 mu m) functional membranes to be transferred at chip level with a high success rate (85%). The viability of cell culturing on the porous membranes was assessed by culturing two different cell types on transferred membranes in two different OOCs. Human umbilical endothelial cells (HUVEC) and MDA-MB-231 (MDA) cells were successfully cultured confirming the viability of cell culturing and the biocompatibility of the membranes. The results demonstrate the potential of controlling the porous membrane features to study cell mechanisms such as transmigrations, monolayer formation, and barrier function. The high control over the membrane characteristics might consequently allow to intentionally trigger or prevent certain cellular responses or mechanisms when studying human physiology and pathology using OOCs.