Theoretical Considerations of Biological Systems in the Presence of High Frequency Electric Fields: Microfluidic and Tissue Level Implications
Sano, Michael B.
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The research presented in this dissertation is the result of our laboratory's effort to develop a microfluidic platform to interrogate, manipulate, isolate, and enrich rare mammalian cells dispersed within heterogeneous populations. Relevant examples of these target cells are stem cells within a differentiated population, circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in the blood stream, and tumor initiating cells (TICs) in a population of benign cancer cells. The ability to isolate any of these rare cells types with high efficiency will directly lead to advances in tissue engineering, cancer detection, and individualized medicine. This work lead directly to the development of a new cell manipulation technique, termed contactless dielectrophoresis (cDEP). In this technique, cells are isolated from direct contact with metal electrodes by employing fluid electrode channels filled with a highly conductive media. Thin insulating barriers, approximately 20 μm, serve to isolate the fluid electrode channels from the low conductivity sample buffer. The insulating barriers in a fluid-electrical system create a number of unique and interesting challenges from an electrical engineering standpoint. Primarily, they block the flow of DC currents and create a non-constant frequency response which can confound experimental results attempting to characterize the electrical characteristics of cells. Due to these, and other, considerations, the use of high-voltage high-frequency signals are necessary to successfully manipulate cells. The effect of these high frequency fields on cells are studied and applied to microfluidic and tissue level applications. In later chapters, theoretical and experimental results show how high frequency and pulsed electric fields can ablate cells and tissue. Understanding the parameters necessary to electroporate cells aids in the development of cDEP devices where this phenomenon is undesirable and gives insight towards the development of new cancer ablation therapies where targeted cell death is sought after. This work shows that there exists a finite frequency spectrum over which cDEP devices can operate in which cells are minimally affected by the induced electric fields. Finally, lessons learned in the course of the development of cDEP were adapted and applied towards cancer ablation therapies where electroporation are favorable. It was found that bursts of high frequency pulsed electric fields can successfully kill cells and ablate tissue volumes through a process termed High Frequency Irreversible Electroporation (H-FIRE). This technique is advantageous as these waveforms mitigate or eliminate muscle contractions associated with traditional IRE technologies. Similarly, the use of fluid electrodes in cDEP inspired the use of an organs vascular system as the conductive pathway to deliver pulses. This novel approach allows for the ablation of large volumes of tissue without the use of puncturing electrodes. These techniques are currently undergoing evaluation in tissue engineering applications and pre-clinical evaluation in veterinary patients.
- Doctoral Dissertations