Generation of oxygen gradients in microfluidic devices for cell culture using spatially confined chemical reactions

Lab Chip. 2011 Nov 7;11(21):3626-33. doi: 10.1039/c1lc20325h. Epub 2011 Sep 13.


This paper reports a microfluidic device capable of generating oxygen gradients for cell culture using spatially confined chemical reactions with minimal chemical consumption. The microfluidic cell culture device is constructed by single-layer polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) microfluidic channels, in which the cells can be easily observed by microscopes. The device can control the oxygen gradients without the utilization of bulky pressurized gas cylinders, direct addition of oxygen scavenging agents, or tedious gas interconnections and sophisticated flow control. In addition, due to the efficient transportation of oxygen within the device using the spatially confined chemical reactions, the microfluidic cell culture device can be directly used in conventional cell incubators without altering their gaseous compositions. The oxygen gradients generated in the device are numerically simulated and experimentally characterized using an oxygen-sensitive fluorescence dye. In this paper, carcinomic human alveolar basal epithelial (A549) cells have been cultured in the microfluidic device with a growth medium and an anti-cancer drug (Tirapazamine, TPZ) under various oxygen gradients. The cell experiment results successfully demonstrate the hyperoxia-induced cell death and hypoxia-induced cytotoxicity of TPZ. In addition, the results confirm the great cell compatibility and stable oxygen gradient generation of the developed device. Consequently, the microfluidic cell culture device developed in this paper is promising to be exploited in biological labs with minimal instrumentation to study cellular responses under various oxygen gradients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / toxicity
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Hypoxia
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Dimethylpolysiloxanes / chemistry
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Microfluidic Analytical Techniques / instrumentation*
  • Oxygen / chemistry*
  • Tirapazamine
  • Triazines / toxicity


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Dimethylpolysiloxanes
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Triazines
  • Tirapazamine
  • baysilon
  • Oxygen