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Fabrication of Functional Biomaterial Microstructures by in Situ Photopolymerization and Photodegradation

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journal contribution
posted on 05.07.2018, 00:00 by Paige J. LeValley, Ben Noren, Prathamesh M. Kharkar, April M. Kloxin, Jesse C. Gatlin, John S. Oakey
The in situ fabrication of poly­(ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA) hydrogel microstructures within poly­(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS)-based microfluidic networks is a versatile technique that has enabled unique applications in biosensing, medical diagnostics, and the fundamental life sciences. Hydrogel structures have previously been patterned by the lithographic photopolymerization of PEGDA hydrogel forming solutions, a process that is confounded by oxygen-permeable PDMS. Here, we introduce an alternate PEG patterning technique that relies upon the optical sculpting of features by patterned light-induced erosion of photodegradable PEGDA deemed negative projection lithography. We quantitatively compared the hydrogel micropatterning fidelity of negative projection lithography to positive projection lithography, using traditional PEGDA photopolymerization, within PDMS devices. We found that the channel depth, the local oxygen atmosphere, and the UV exposure time dictated the size and resolution of hydrogel features formed using positive projection lithography. In contrast, negative projection lithography was observed to deliver high-resolution functional features with dimensions on the order of single micrometers enabled by its facilely controlled mechanism of feature formation that is insensitive to oxygen. Next, the utility of photodegradable PEGDA was further assessed by encapsulating or conjugating bioactive molecules within photodegradable PEG matrixes to provide a route to the formation of complex and dynamically reconfigurable chemical microenvironments. Finally, we demonstrated that negative projection lithography enabled photopatterning of multilayered microscale objects without the need for precise mask alignment. The described approach for photopatterning high-resolution photolabile hydrogel microstructures directly within PDMS microchannels could enable novel microsystems of increasing complexity and sophistication for a variety of clinical and biological applications.