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PDMS Sylgard 527-Based Freely Suspended Ultrathin Membranes Exhibiting Mechanistic Characteristics of Vascular Basement Membranes

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posted on 16.10.2018, 00:00 by Mitesh L. Rathod, Jungho Ahn, Biswajit Saha, Prashant Purwar, Yejin Lee, Noo Li Jeon, Junghoon Lee
In the past, significant effort has been made to develop ultrathin membranes exhibiting physiologically relevant mechanical properties, such as thickness and elasticity of native basement membranes. However, most of these fabricated membranes have a relatively high elastic modulus, ∼MPa–GPa, relevant only to retinal and epithelial basement membranes. Vascular basement membranes exhibiting relatively low elastic modulus, ∼kPa, on the contrary, have seldom been mimicked. Membranes demonstrating high compliance, with moduli ranging in ∼kPa along with sub-microscale thicknesses have rarely been reported, and would be ideal to mimic vascular basement membranes in vitro. To address this, we fabricate ultrathin membranes demonstrating the mechanistic features exhibited by their vascular biological counterparts. Salient features of the fabricated ultrathin membranes include free suspension, physiologically relevant thickness ∼sub-micrometers, relatively low modulus ∼kPa, and sufficiently large culture area ∼20 mm2. To fabricate such ultrathin membranes, undiluted PDMS Sylgard 527 was utilized as opposed to the conventional diluted polymer–solvent mixture approach. In addition, the necessity to have a sacrificial layer for releasing membranes from the underlying substrates was also eliminated in our approach. The novelty of our work lies in achieving the distinct combination of membranes having thickness in sub-micrometers and the associated elasticity in kilopascal using undiluted polymer, which past approaches with dilution have not been able to accomplish. The ultrathin membranes with average thickness of 972 nm (thick) and 570 nm (thin) were estimated to have an elastic modulus of 45 and 214 kPa, respectively. Contact angle measurements revealed the ultrathin membranes exhibited hybrophobic characteristics in unpeeled state and transformed to hydrophilic behavior when freely suspended. Human umbilical vein endothelial cells were cultured on the polymeric ultrathin membranes, and the temporal cell response to change in local compliance of the membranes was studied by evaluating the cell spread area, density, percentage area coverage, and spread rate. After 24 h, single cells, pairs, and group of three to four cells were noticed on highly compliant thick membranes, having average thickness of 972 nm and modulus of 45 kPa. On the contrary, the cell monolayer was noted on the glass slide acting as a control. For the thin membranes featuring average thickness of 570 nm and modulus of 214 kPa, the cells tend to exhibit response similar to that on control with initiation of monolayer formation. Our results indicate, the local compliance, in turn, the membrane thickness governs the cell behavior and this can have vital implications during disease initiation and progression, wound healing, and cancer cell metastasis.

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