Nanoliter scale microbioreactor array for quantitative cell biology

Philip J. Lee, Paul J. Hung, Vivek M. Rao, Luke P. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

193 Scopus citations


A nanoliter scale microbioreactor array was designed for multiplexed quantitative cell biology. An addressable 8 × 8 array of three nanoliter chambers was demonstrated for observing the serum response of HeLa human cancer cells in 64 parallel cultures. The individual culture unit was designed with a "C" shaped ring that effectively decoupled the central cell growth regions from the outer fluid transport channels. The chamber layout mimics physiological tissue conditions by implementing an outer channel for convective "blood" flow that feeds cells through diffusion into the low shear "interstitial" space. The μm opening at the base of the "C" ring established a differential fluidic resistance up to 3 orders of magnitude greater than the fluid transport channel within a single mold microfluidic device. Three-dimensional (3D) finite element simulation were used to predict fluid transport properties based on chamber dimensions and verified experimentally. The microbioreactor array provided a continuous flow culture environment with a Peclet number (0.02) and shear stress (0.01 Pa) that approximated in vivo tissue conditions without limiting mass transport (10 s nutrient turnover). This microfluidic design overcomes the major problems encountered in multiplexing nanoliter culture environments by enabling uniform cell loading, eliminating shear, and pressure stresses on cultured cells, providing stable control of fluidic addressing, and permitting continuous on-chip optical monitoring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-14
Number of pages10
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - 5 May 2006


  • Biomimetic
  • Cell culture
  • Microbioreactor array
  • Microfluidics
  • Systems biology


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