Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Electrical Engineering

Major Professor

Shekhar Bhansali, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Andrew Hoff, Ph.D.


cancer cells, lab-on-a-chip, microelectrodes, microfluidics, tumor spheroids


This research utilizes Electrical Impedance Spectroscopy, a technique classically used for electrochemical analysis and material characterization, as the basis for a non-destructive, label-free assay platform for three dimensional (3D) cellular spheroids. In this work, a linear array of microelectrodes is optimized to rapidly respond to changes located within a 3D multicellular model. In addition, this technique is coupled with an on chip micro-pH sensor for monitoring the environment around the cells. Finally, the responses of both impedance and pH are correlated with physical changes within the cellular model. The impedance analysis system realized through this work provides a foundation for the development of high-throughput drug screening systems that utilize multiple parallel sensing modalities including pH and impedance sensing in order to quickly assess the efficacy of specific drug candidates.

The slow development of new drugs is mainly attributed to poor predictability of current chemosensitivity and resistivity assays, as well as genetic differences between the animal models used for tests and humans. In addition, monolayer cultures used in early experimentation are fundamentally different from the complex structure of organs in vivo. This requires the study of smaller 3D models (spheroids) that more efficiently replicate the conditions within the body.

The main objective of this research was to develop a microfluidic system on a chip that is capable of deducing viability and morphology of 3D tumor spheroids by monitoring both the impedance of the cellular model and the pH of their local environment. This would provide a fast and reliable method for screening pharmaceutical compounds in a high-throughput system.

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Engineering Commons