Over the last decade, the field of tissue and bio-engineering has seen an increase in the development of in vitro high-throughput hybrid systems that can be used to understand cell function and behavior at the cellular and tissue levels. These tools would have a wide array of applications including for implants, drug discovery, and toxicology, as well as for studying cell developmental behavior and as disease models. Currently, there are a limited number of efficient, functional drug screening assays in the pharmacology industry and studies of cell-surface interactions are complicated and invasive. Most cell physiology studies are performed using conventional patch-clamp techniques or random networks cultured on silicon devices such as Microelectrode Arrays (MEAs) and Field Effect transistors (FETs). The objective of this study was to develop high-throughput in vitro platforms that could be used to analyze cell function and their response to various stimuli. Our hypothesis was that by utilizing surface modification to provide external guidance cues for various cell types and by controlling the cell environment in terms of culture conditions, we could develop an in vitro hybrid platform for sensing and testing applications. Such a system would not only give information regarding the surface effects on the growth and behavior of cells for implant development applications, but also allow for the study of vital cell physiology parameters like conduction velocity in cardiomyocytes and synaptic plasticity in neuronal networks. This study outlines the development of these in vitro high throughput systems that have varied applications ranging from tissue engineering to drug development. We have developed a simple and relatively high-throughput method in order to test the physiological effects of varying iii chemical environments on rat embryonic cardiac myocytes in order to model the degradation effects of polymer scaffolds. Our results, using our simple test system, are in agreement with earlier observations that utilized a complex 3D biodegradable scaffold. Thus, surface functionalization with self-assembled monolayers combined with histological/physiological testing could be a relatively high throughput method for biocompatibility studies and for the optimization of the material/tissue interface in tissue engineering. Traditional multielectrode extracellular recording methods were combined with surface patterning of cardiac myocyte monolayers to enhance the information content of the method; for example, to enable the measurement of conduction velocity, refractory period after action potentials or to create a functional reentry model. Two drugs, 1-Heptanol, a gap junction blocker, and Sparfloxacin, a fluoroquinone antibiotic, were tested in this system. 1-Heptanol administration resulted in a marked reduction in conduction velocity, whereas Sparfloxacin caused rapid, irregular and unsynchronized activity, indicating fibrillation. As shown in these experiments, the patterning of cardiac myocyte monolayers increased the information content of traditional multielectrode measurements. Patterning techniques with self-assembled monolayers on microelectrode arrays were also used to study the physiological properties of hippocampal networks with functional unidirectional connectivity, developed to study the mono-synaptic connections found in the dentate gyrus. Results indicate that changes in synaptic connectivity and strength were chemically induced in these patterned hippocampal networks. This method is currently being used for studying long term potentiation at the cellular level. For this purpose, two cell patterns were optimized for cell migration onto the pattern as demonstrated by time lapse studies, and for iv supporting the best pattern formation and cell survival on these networks. The networks formed mature interconnected spiking neurons. In conclusion, this study demonstrates the development and testing of in vitro highthroughput systems that have applications in drug development, understanding disease models and tissue engineering. It can be further developed for use with human cells to have a more predictive value than existing complex, expensive and time consuming methods.


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Graduation Date





Hickman, James


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Medicine


Biomedical Sciences









Release Date

August 2010

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Medicine, Medicine -- Dissertations, Academic