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A microfluidic platform for studying the effects of small temperature gradients in an incubator environment
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Studies on the effects of variations in temperature and mild temperature gradients on cells, gels, and scaffolds are important from the viewpoint of biological function. Small differences in temperature are known to elicit significant variations in cell behavior and individual protein reactivity. For the study of thermal effects and gradients in vitro, it is important to develop microfluidic platforms which are capable of controlling temperature gradients in an environment which mimics the range of physiological conditions. In the present paper, such a microfluidic thermal gradient system system is proposed which can create and maintain a thermal gradient throughout a cell-seeded gel matrix using the hot and cold water supply integrated in the system in the form of a countercurrent heat exchanger. It is found that a uniform temperature gradient can be created and maintained in the device even inside a high temperature and high humidity environment of an incubator. With the help of a hot and cold circuit controlled from outside the incubator the temperature gradient can be regulated. A numerical simulation of the device demonstrates the thermal feature of the chip. Cell viability and activity under a thermal gradient are examined by placing human breast cancercells in the device.
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