Development of a Microfluidic Device for Tumoroid Generation Using a Thiol-Acrylate Hydrogel

For the summer of 2018, I was co-advised by Dr. Pojman and Dr. Melvin on a joint project that taught me cell culturing, microfluidics, and polymer chemistry.  This was my first exposure into operating in a BSL-2 laboratory.  As part of a 10-week REU, I focused on characterizing a base-catalyze hydrogel that would support 3D cancer cell growth inside a microfluidic device. 

Research Motivation

Current tumor spheroid generation is labor intensive and lacks high-throughput capabilities and and uniformity.  Some examples of common methods include:

Tumor spheroids are 3-dimensional aggregates of cancer cells that accurately mimic in vivo tumor behavior; 2-dimensional scaffolds are unable to provide the same cell-to-cell interactions.


Existing hydrogel polymers require gelation strategies which may pose harm to encapsulated cells (UV or ionic initiation) or they can be expensive (collagen).

Our Approach

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Our microfluidic approach is able to generate hundreds of spheroids using minimal reagent and a thiol-acrylate hydrogel.  Our base-catalyzed polymerization allows for tunable mechanical properties, and reaction kinetics of the hydrogel while maximizing cell viability.

My research covered cell viability, rheometry data, NMR and IR analysis of the synthetic polymers created.  Each polymer was tested for biocompatibility with our MDA-MB-231 cells, in addition to encapsulation critiques that pertain to operating our microfluidic device.

Future Considerations

Currently in the process of publishing, and will be able to update once we submit our final draft.

Updated 08/27/2018