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Poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) is likely the most popular material for microfluidic devices in lab-on-achip and other biomedical applications. However, the hydrophobicity of PDMS leads to non-specific adsorption of proteins and other molecules such as therapeutic drugs, limiting its broader use. Here, we introduce a simple method for preparing PDMS materials to improve hydrophilicity and decrease nonspecific protein adsorption while retaining cellular biocompatibility, transparency, and good mechanical properties without the need for any post-cure surface treatment. This approach utilizes smart copolymers comprised of poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) and PDMS segments (PDMS-PEG) that, when blended with PDMS during device manufacture, spontaneously segregate to surfaces in contact with aqueous solutions and reduce the hydrophobicity without any added manufacturing steps. PDMS-PEGmodified PDMS samples showed contact angles as low as 23.6° ± 1° and retained this hydrophilicity for at least twenty months. Their improved wettability was confirmed using capillary flow experiments. Modified devices exhibited considerably reduced non-specific adsorption of albumin, lysozyme, and immunoglobulin G. The modified PDMS was biocompatible, displaying no adverse effects when used in a simple liver-on-a-chip model using primary rat hepatocytes. This PDMS modification method can be further applied in analytical separations, biosensing, cell studies, and drug-related studies.





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Originally published in Scientific Reports, volume 9, Article number: 7377 (2019).