The Concept:

The goal of my final project was to build an initial prototype of a device to be used in tissue culture, that will be capable of administering growth media in a controlled, continuous fashion. Tissue culture, the growth of of human and other mammalian cells in laboratory conditions serves an essential function in basic research, biotechnology, and therapeutic development,
by providing a source of cells for in vitro experiments and studying cellular behavior ex vivo of the organism of origin. The environmental control that allows for growing cells in this fashion is the use of a combination of an incubator that provides optimized temperature and atmospheric conditions, and culture media, a buffered solution that provides essential nutrients and mitigates the effects of accumulated by products of cellular metabolism. While incubators provide near constant control of temperature and atmosphere, the culture media is a consumed reagent that needs periodic replacement. While the replacement of tissue culture media can be labor intensive, more importantly even cultures maintained by the most diligent of researchers will experience fluctuations in environmental conditions caused by the periodic changing of the tissue culture media. These fluctuations are not representative of the conditions the cells experience in vivo and may have unforeseen consequences on how the cells behave and on the results of experiments in which they are used. While there are currently existing automated tissue culture platforms are primarily targeted for production-scale facilities, I hope to develop a device the will fit into the work-flow of life science researchers working on both small and large scale experiments.

While I envision such a device having a variety of features to allow the user to set parameters and monitor performance, at its core is a liquid-handling device that pumps culture media into a tissue culture plate, and removes media at an equal rate. For the scope of this prototype I have focused on the pumping mechanism, and the fluidic device to administer the media. The fluidic device is centered on a customized plate-lid the replaces the standard tissue-culture plate lid, that allows for dispense and aspiration of media.

The Plate Lid - Fluidic Device:

The Pumps: