Micro-scale Platforms for Investigations of Biological Structures
Doctoral thesis, 2016

This thesis describes the development of innovative micro-scale platforms as a means to address the current challenges within the field of cell biology, and to provide an interface between miniaturized analytical technology and experimental systems for the life sciences. The work includes an analytical platform for rapid assessment of the viability of adherent single cells; a surface patterning strategy for investigations of cell-to-cell communication via protrusions; a versatile microfluidic probe in SU-8 hard-polymer, and a microfabricated millimeter-wave measurement system for the identification and characterization of niosome (non-ionic surfactant vesicle) constituents, which is operated in a label-free, non-invasive manner. One of the major challenges in cell biology is to understand the heterogeneity of cells, i.e., cells of the same species and in the same local environment can differ dramatically. Recent evidence suggests that these differences in individual cells can affect the development, health and function of the entire cell population, and for this reason, single-cell studies have become increasingly important. However, there remains a need of instrumentation for efficient analytical investigations on single cells in adherent cultures and tissue slices. My thesis addresses some of the research problems that life scientists encounter in single-cell experiments, and suggests novel analytical devices and protocols that provide efficient solutions to these problems. One of them is a protocol for the rapid determination of the viability of individual mammalian cells in adherent cell cultures, utilizing a microfluidic device for selective perfusion of targeted cells (Paper I). I also introduce micropatterned cytophobic polymer (Teflon AF) on glass as cell culture substrate, which exhibits differential adhesion properties with respect to biological cells. This enabled the analysis of spatially separated cells in terms of their ability to establish interconnections by reaching out to other cells via protrusions, guided by the pre-determined surface pattern. Applying a microfluidic device for selective perfusion of single cells grown on these substrates allowed for examination of the chemical communication between interconnected pairs of cells (Paper II). In Paper III, a facile process for fabrication of free-standing microfluidic devices in a photo-patternable hard-polymer (SU-8) is reported. This constitutes a major, necessary step towards large-scale fabrication of diversely functionalized single-cell superfusion devices with high potential in drug screening and diagnostics. Finally, in Paper IV, a concept for an open-volume dielectric spectroscopy platform based on millimeter-wave technology, developed for label-free identification and characterization of niosome constituents, is presented. The microfabricated platform creates new opportunities for analyzing and characterizing the compositional variances in niosome membranes in the context of drug delivery.


non-ionic surfactants

single-cell viability

hydrodynamic flow confinement

cell-to-cell connections


Teflon AF

cell protrusions

free-standing probes


Kollektorn, MC2
Opponent: Prof. Daniel T. Chiu, University of Washington, USA


Anna Kim

Chalmers, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Cellular communication via directed protrusion growth: Critical length-scales and membrane morphology

Nano Communication Networks,; Vol. 6(2015)p. 178-182

Journal article

A rapid microfluidic technique for integrated viability determination of adherent single cells

Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry,; Vol. 407(2015)p. 1295-1301

Journal article

Kim, A. A., Kustanovich, K., Baratian, D., Ainla, A., Shaali, M., Jeffries, G. D. M., and Jesorka, A. SU-8 free-standing microfluidic probes

Biologiska celler är de grundläggande strukturella och funktionella enheter av levande materia. I flercelliga organismer, differentieras celler till olika typer med specifika och distinkta funktioner. Utöver detta kan celler av samma typ och i samma lokala miljö visa variationer i sina individuella beteenden. För att förstå drivkrafterna bakom dessa skillnader krävs experimentella verktyg för att möjliggöra studier av enskilda celler. Detta har stor betydelse, eftersom det har visats att enstaka celler har potential att påverka hälsa och funktion av hela cellpopulationen. Arbetet som beskrivs i denna avhandling bidrar till utvecklingen av forskningsplattformar i mikroskala för behandling av enskilda biologiska celler och deras omgivning.

Biological cells are the fundamental structural and functional units of living matter. In multicellular organisms, cells are differentiated into various types with specific and distinct functions. However, cells of the same type and in the same local environment can show variances in their individual behavior. Understanding the driving forces behind these differences, requires experimental tools for investigating single cells. This is of key importance, as it has been demonstrated that individual cells have the potential to influence the health and function of the entire cell population. The work described in this thesis contributes to the development of research platforms in the micro-scale for addressing individual biological cells and their environment.


Kollberg Laboratory

Nanofabrication Laboratory

Areas of Advance

Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

Life Science Engineering (2010-2018)

Subject Categories


Nano Technology

Chemical Sciences



Doktorsavhandlingar vid Chalmers tekniska högskola. Ny serie: 4180



Kollektorn, MC2

Opponent: Prof. Daniel T. Chiu, University of Washington, USA

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