Design of a Well-Defined Poly(Dimethylsiloxane)-Based Microbial Nanoculture System
Organosilanes contain hydrocarbon-like backbones, allowing them to react with silicone-based agents in the presence of a catalyst and polymerize into membranes with tunable transport and mechanical properties. Owing to their high hydrophobicity, Poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) membranes, and more particularly, Sylgard® 184, have been used for applications including drug delivery, gas separation, and microfluidics fabrication. However, the undefined composition of the material and its ability to leach out uncured oligomers make its functionalization and usage challenging for many biological applications. This article presents the design of a novel culture system generated using PDMS-based membranes to study microbial dynamics. The microbial culture system that is referred to as “nanoculture” serves to encapsulate and grow microbes in semipermeable membranes. The mechanical properties of the membranes are reinforced through osmotic annealing, which enable the nanocultures to withstand high shear stress similar to environmental conditions while maintaining transport properties essential to microbial communication and growth. The present study lays the foundation for a novel microbial culture system that would enable the cultivation of microorganisms in environments other than laboratory conditions.