On chip porous polymer membranes for integration of gastrointestinal tract epithelium with microfluidic 'body-on-a-chip' devices

Mandy Brigitte Esch, Jong Hwan Sung, Jennifer Yang, Changhao Yu, Jiajie Yu, John C. March, Michael Louis Shuler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

149 Scopus citations


We describe a novel fabrication method that creates microporous, polymeric membranes that are either flat or contain controllable 3-dimensional shapes that, when populated with Caco-2 cells, mimic key aspects of the intestinal epithelium such as intestinal villi and tight junctions. The developed membranes can be integrated with microfluidic, multi-organ cell culture systems, providing access to both sides, apical and basolateral, of the 3D epithelial cell culture. Partial exposure of photoresist (SU-8) spun on silicon substrates creates flat membranes with micrometer-sized pores (0.5-4.0 μm) that - supported by posts - span across 50 μm deep microfluidic chambers that are 8 mm wide and 10 long. To create threedimensional shapes the membranes were air dried over silicon pillarswith aspect ratios of up to 4:1. Space that provides access to the underside of the shaped membranes can be created by isotropically etching the sacrificial silicon pillars with xenon difluoride. Depending on the size of the supporting posts and the pore sizes the overall porosity of the membranes ranged from 4.4% to 25.3 %. The microfabricated membranes can be used for integrating barrier tissues such as the gastrointestinal tract epithelium, the lung epithelium, or other barrier tissues with multi-organ "body-on-a-chip" devices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)895-906
Number of pages12
JournalBiomedical Microdevices
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • 3-D tissue culture
  • Barrier tissue
  • Body-on-a-chip
  • Gastrointestinal tract
  • Membrane
  • Micro cell culture analog
  • μCCA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


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