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Parylene as a New Membrane Material for Biomems Applications


Lu, Bo (2012) Parylene as a New Membrane Material for Biomems Applications. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/DPDC-9E57.


The work in this thesis aims to use MEMS and microfabrication technologies to develop two types of parylene membrane devices for biomedical applications. The first device is the parylene membrane filter for cancer detection. The presence of circulating tumor cells (CTC) in patient blood is an important sign of cancer metastasis. However, currently there are two big challenges for CTC detection. First, CTCs are extremely rare, especially at the early stage of cancer metastasis. Secondly, CTCs are very fragile, and are very likely to be damaged during the capturing process. By using size-based membrane filtration through the specially designed parylene filters, together with a constant-pressure filtration system, we are able to capture the CTCs from patient blood with high capture efficiency, high viability, moderate enrichment, and high throughput. Both immunofluorescence enumeration and telomerase activity detection have been used to detect and differentiate the captured CTCs. The feasibility of further cell culture of the captured CTCs has also been demonstrated, which could be a useful way to increase the number of CTCs for future studies. Models of the time-dependent cell membrane damage are developed to predict and prevent CTC damage during this detection process. The results of clinical trials further demonstrate that the parylene membrane filter is a promising device for cancer detection.

The second device is the parylene artificial Bruch’s membrane for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is usually characterized by an impaired Bruch’s membrane with much lowered permeability, which impedes the transportation of nutrients from choroid vessels to nourish the retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells and photoreceptors. Parylene is selected as a substitute material because of its good mechanical properties, transparency, biocompatibility, and machinability. More importantly, it is found that the permeability of submicron parylene is very similar to that of healthy human Bruch’s membrane. A mesh-supported submicron parylene membrane structure has been designed and its feasibility as an artificial Bruch’s membrane has been demonstrated by diffusion experiments, cell perfusion culture, and pressure deflection tests. RPE cells are able to adhere, proliferate and develop into normal in vivo-like morphology and functions. Currently this artificial membrane is under clinical trials.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Parylene, Membrane, BioMEMS, Circulating tumor cells, Age-related macular degeneration
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Electrical Engineering
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Tai, Yu-Chong
Thesis Committee:
  • Tai, Yu-Chong (chair)
  • Yang, Changhuei
  • Choo, Hyuck
  • Burdick, Joel Wakeman
  • Guo, Chin-Lin
Defense Date:26 April 2012
Non-Caltech Author Email:lubomems (AT)
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05022012-003225468
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:6998
Deposited By: Bo Lu
Deposited On:15 May 2012 22:57
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 23:55

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PDF (Bo Lu's PhD Thesis) - Final Version
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