Hanyuan Zhang

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources


Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering

Committee Chair

Yuxin Liu

Committee Co-Chair

Thirimachos Bourlai

Committee Member

Xian-An Cao


Cell migration is one of the crucial steps in many human physiological events and diseases, including cancers. Recent studies have shown that carbon nanotubes (CNTs), like asbestos, can induce accelerated cell growth and invasiveness that contribute to their mesothelioma pathogenicity. Malignant mesothelioma is a very aggressive tumor that develops from cells of the mesothelium, and is most commonly caused by exposure to asbestos. CNTs have similar structure and mode of exposure to asbestos. This has raised a particular concern regarding the potential carcinogenicity of CNTs, especially in the pleural spaces, which are key target tissues for asbestos-related diseases.;In this thesis, a passive diffusion based microfluidic device that generates stable gradient is developed to study the migration of human lung mesothelial cells upon long-term exposure (4 months) to sub-cytotoxic concentration (0.02 microg/cm2) of single walled CNTs (SWCNTs). During the migration, we observed that the cell morphology changed from a flattened shape to a spindle-shape prior to the migration after the cell sensed the gradient. The migration of chronic SWCNTs exposed mesothelial cells was conducted under different fetal bovine serum (FBS) concentration gradients, and the velocities of cell migration and number of migrated cells were extracted and compared. Results showed that chronic SWCNT exposed mesothelial cells were more aggressive compared to non-CNTs treated cells with FBS concentration of 5% and 10% in terms of migration velocity. The SWCNT exposed cells were less aggressive under the FBS concentration of 15% and 20%. The method described here allows simultaneous detection of cell morphology and migration under chemoattractant gradient conditions. It also allows for real time monitoring of cell motility that resembles in vivo cell migration.