Microscale methods to investigate and manipulate multispecies biological systems
Fong, Erika Jo
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The continuing threats from viral infectious diseases highlight the need for new tools to study viral interactions with host cells. Understanding how these viruses interact and respond to their environment can help predict outbreaks, shed insight on the most likely strains to emerge, and determine which viruses have the potential to cause significant human illness. Animal studies provide a wealth of information, but the interpretation of results is confounded by the large number of uncontrolled or unknown variables in complex living systems. In contrast, traditional tissue culture approaches have provided investigators a valuable platform with a high degree of experimental control and flexibility, but the static nature of flask-based cell culture makes it difficult to study viral evolution. Serial passaging introduces un-physiological perturbations to cell and virus populations by drastically reducing the number of species with each passage. Low copy, high fitness viral variants maybe eliminated, while in vivo these variants would be essential in determining the virus’ evolutionary fate. Bridging technologies are urgently needed to mitigate the unrealistic dynamics in static flask-based cultures, and the complexity and expense of in vivo experiments. This thesis details the development of a continuous perfusion platform capable of more closely mimicking in vivo cell-virus dynamics, while surpassing the experimental control and flexibility of standard cell culture. First, a microfluidic flow through acoustic device is optimized to enable efficient and controllable separation of cells and viruses. Repeatable isolation of cell and virus species is demonstrated with both a well-characterized virus, Dengue Virus (DENV), and the novel Golden Gate Virus. Next, a platform is built around this device to enable controllable, automated, continuous cell culture. Beads are used to assess system performance and optimize operation. Subsequently, the platform is used to culture both murine hybridoma (4G2) and human monocyte (THP-1) cell lines for over one month, and demonstrate the ability to manipulate population dynamics. Finally, we use the platform to establish a multispecies culture with THP-1 cells and Sindbis Virus (SINV). This work integrates distinct engineering feats to create a platform capable of enhancing existing cell virus studies and opening the door to a variety of high-impact investigations.