Micro and nanostructured impedance sensors for biological and biomedical applications

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Messina, Walter
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University College Cork
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This thesis work covered the fabrication and characterisation of impedance sensors for biological applications aiming in particular to the cytotoxicity monitoring of cultured cells exposed to different kind of chemical compounds and drugs and to the identification of different types of biological tissue (fat, muscles, nerves) using a sensor fabricated on the tip of a commercially available needle during peripheral nerve block procedures. Gold impedance electrodes have been successfully fabricated for impedance measurement on cells cultured on the electrode surface which was modified with the fabrication of gold nanopillars. These nanostructures have a height of 60nm or 100nm and they have highly ordered layout as they are fabricated through the e-beam technique. The fabrication of the threedimensional structures on the interdigitated electrodes was supposed to improve the sensitivity of the ECIS (electric cell-substrate impedance sensing) measurement while monitoring the cytotoxicity effects of two different drugs (Antrodia Camphorata extract and Nicotine) on three different cell lines (HeLa, A549 and BALBc 3T3) cultured on the impedance devices and change the morphology of the cells growing on the nanostructured electrodes. The fabrication of the nanostructures was achieved combining techniques like UV lithography, metal lift-off, evaporation and e-beam lithography techniques. The electrodes were packaged using a pressure sensitive, medical grade adhesive double-sided tape. The electrodes were then characterised with the aid of AFM and SEM imaging which confirmed the success of the fabrication processes showing the nanopillars fabricated with the right layout and dimensions figures. The introduction of nanopillars on the impedance electrodes, however, did not improve much the sensitivity of the assay with the exception of tests carried out with Nicotine. HeLa and A549 cells appeared to grow in a different way on the two surfaces, while no differences where noticed on the BALBc 3T3 cells. Impedance measurements obtained with the dead cells on the negative control electrodes or the test electrodes with the drugs can be compared to those done on the electrodes containing just media in the tested volume (as no cells are attached and cover the electrode surface). The impedance figures recorded using these electrodes were between 1.5kΩ and 2.5 kΩ, while the figures recorded on confluent cell layers range between 4kΩ and 5.5kΩ with peaks of almost 7 kΩ if there was more than one layer of cells growing on each other. There was then a very clear separation between the values of living cell compared to the dead ones which was almost 2.5 - 3kΩ. In this way it was very easy to determine whether the drugs affected the cells normal life cycle on not. However, little or no differences were noticed in the impedance analysis carried out on the two different kinds of electrodes using cultured cells. An increase of sensitivity was noticed only in a couple of experiments carried out on A549 cells growing on the nanostructured electrodes and exposed to different concentration of a solution containing Nicotine. More experiments to achieve a higher number of statistical evidences will be needed to prove these findings with an absolute confidence. The smart needle project aimed to reduce the limitations of the Electrical Nerve Stimulation (ENS) and the Ultra Sound Guided peripheral nerve block techniques giving the clinicians an additional tool for performing correctly the peripheral nerve block. Bioimpedance, as measured at the needle tip, provides additional information on needle tip location, thereby facilitating detection of intraneural needle placement. Using the needle as a precision instrument and guidance tool may provide additional information as to needle tip location and enhance safety in regional anaesthesia. In the time analysis, with the frequency fixed at 10kHz and the samples kept at 12°C, the approximate range for muscle bioimpedance was 203 – 616 Ω, the approximate bioimpedance range for fat was 5.02 - 17.8 kΩ and the approximate range for connective tissue was 790 Ω – 1.55 kΩ. While when the samples were heated at 37°C and measured again at 10kHz, the approximate bioimpedance range for muscle was 100-175Ω. The approximate bioimpedance range of fat was 627 Ω - 3.2 kΩ and the range for connective tissue was 221-540Ω. In the experiments done on the fresh slaughtered lamb carcass, replicating a scenario close to the real application, the impedance values recorded for fat were around 17 kΩ, for muscle and lean tissue around 1.3 kΩ while the nervous structures had an impedance value of 2.9 kΩ. With the data collected during this research, it was possible to conclude that measurements of bioimpedance at the needle tip location can give valuable information to the clinicians performing a peripheral nerve block procedure as the separation (in terms of impedance figures) was very marked between the different type of tissues. It is then feasible to use an impedance electrode fabricated on the needle tip to differentiate several tissues from the nerve tissue. Currently, several different methods are being studied to fabricate an impedance electrode on the surface of a commercially available needle used for the peripheral nerve block procedure.
Impedance , Nanopillar , Bioimpedance , ECIS , Biosensor , Cell-based biosensor , Peripheral nerve block , Cell culture
Messina, W. 2014. Micro and nanostructured impedance sensors for biological and biomedical applications. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.