Development of porous and flexible ptmc membranes for in vitro organ models fabricated by evaporation-induced phase separation

Thijs Pasman, Danielle Baptista, Sander van Riet, Roman K Truckenmüller, Pieter S Hiemstra, Robbert J Rottier, Dimitrios Stamatialis, André A Poot

Published: November 2020

Polymeric membranes are widely applied in biomedical applications, including in vitro organ models. In such models, they are mostly used as supports on which cells are cultured to create functional tissue units of the desired organ. To this end, the membrane properties, e.g., morphology and porosity, should match the tissue properties. Organ models of dynamic (barrier) tissues, e.g., lung, require flexible, elastic and porous membranes. Thus, membranes based on poly (dimethyl siloxane) (PDMS) are often applied, which are flexible and elastic. However, PDMS has low cell adhesive properties and displays small molecule ad- and absorption. Furthermore, the introduction of porosity in these membranes requires elaborate methods. In this work, we aim to develop porous membranes for organ models based on poly(trimethylene carbonate) (PTMC): a flexible polymer with good cell adhesive properties which has been used for tissue engineering scaffolds, but not in in vitro organ models. For developing these membranes, we applied evaporation-induced phase separation (EIPS), a new method in this field based on solvent evaporation initiating phase separation, followed by membrane photo-crosslinking. We optimised various processing variables for obtaining form-stable PTMC membranes with average pore sizes between 5 to 8 µm and water permeance in the microfiltration range (17,000–41,000 L/m2/h/bar). Importantly, the membranes are flexible and are suitable for implementation in in vitro organ models.

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