Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Nanoscale Science and Engineering


Nanoscale Engineering

Content Description

1 online resource (vii, 103 pages) : illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

James Castracane

Committee Members

James Castracane, Yubing Xie, Nate Cady, John Condeelis


Cell tracking, Chemotaxis in vitro and in vivo, Hydrogel, Metastatic tumors, NANo IntraVital Imaging Device, Nano/Micro fabrication, Cancer, BioMEMS, Imaging systems in medicine, Nanomedicine

Subject Categories

Biomedical Engineering and Bioengineering | Nanoscience and Nanotechnology


Metastatic tumors are heterogeneous in nature and composed of subpopulations of cells having various metastatic potentials. The time progression of a tumor creates a unique microenvironment to improve the invasion capabilities and survivability of cancer cells in different microenvironments. In the early stages of intravasation, cancer cells establish communication with other cell types through a paracrine loop and covers long distances by sensing growth factor gradients through extracellular matrices. Cellular migration both in vitro and in vivo is a complex process and to understand their motility in depth, sophisticated techniques are required to document and record events in real time. This study presents the design and optimization of a new versatile chemotaxis device called the NANIVID (NANo IntraVital Imaging Device), developed using advanced Nano/Micro fabrication techniques. The current version of this device has been demonstrated to form a stable (epidermal growth factor) EGF gradient in vitro (2D and 3D) while a miniaturized size of NANIVID is used as an implantable device for intravital studies of chemotaxis and to collect cells in vivo. The device is fabricated using microfabrication techniques in which two substrates are bonded together using a thin polymer layer creating a bonded device with one point source (approximately 150 µm x 50 µm) outlet. The main structures of the device consist of two transparent substrates: one having etched chambers and channel while the second consists of a microelectrode system to measure real time cell arrival inside the device. The chamber of the device is loaded with a growth factor reservoir consisting of hydrogel to sustain a steady release of growth factor into the surrounding environment for long periods of time and establishing a concentration gradient from the device. The focus of this study was to design and optimize the new device for cell chemotaxis studies in breast cancer cells in cell culture. Our results show that we have created a flexible, cheap, miniature and autonomous chemotaxis device and demonstrate its usefulness in 2D and 3D cell culture. We also provide preliminary data for use of the device in vivo.