Development of Nanocellulose Materials for Nano-filtration and Microfluidic Cell Culture

Abstract: Nanocellulose, cellulose nanofibrils or nanocrystals, is an interesting material for a wide range of applications. It can be obtained from abundant sources (higher plants, bacteria and algae), and presents many advantages to be used in the biomedical field such as biological safety, high surface area, porosity, and tailorable rheological properties. This thesis selected two different areas to explore the use of nanocellulose materials in life sciences: bioprocessing of biological products and cell culture in microfluidic systems. The production of biopharmaceutical products (e.g. plasma-derived proteins) requires bioactive raw materials of animal or human origin, which present a viral risk. Virus contamination is one of the biggest challenges in the bioprocessing of such biological products, with size-exclusion virus filtration signalled as the preferred method. Commercial virus removal filters tend to have relatively low fluxes, which results in expensive industrial processes and the use of filters based on synthetic polymers is associated with environmental burden. When considering the application of microfluidic devices in cell research, the development of cheap and readily available nano- or micro-biomaterials that are easy to process and integrate is expected to advance the understanding of the relationship between cells and the microenvironment.The first part of the thesis focussed on Cladophora algae-derived cellulose nanofibrils virus removal filters (CCF-VFs) and investigated their application in the bioprocessing of plasma-derived proteins and stem cell differentiation medium. The second part explored the use of wood-derived cellulose nanofibrils (CNFs) as a cell culture substrate in microfluidics. Here, a concentric circular patterned CNF substrate was incorporated into a microfluidic chip to study the role of topography and shear stress in guiding the alignment of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs). In conclusion, CCF-VFs show great potential to be integrated into the bioprocessing of plasma-derived products to remove viruses. The first evaluation of CCF-VFs in stem cell culture medium filtration showed promising results. Aligned CNFs were successfully integrated into microfluidic chips as a tool to study the role of mechanical cues on cell alignment.