Journal article Open Access

Recent Advances of Biologically Inspired 3D Microfluidic Hydrogel Cell Culture Systems

Rosser, Julie; Calvo, Isabel Olmos; Schlager, Magdalena; Purtscher, Michalea; Jenner, Florien; Ertl, Peter

The application of hydrogels as a matrix for 3-dimensional cell cultures has become an indispensable tool in tissue engineering, biotechnology and biomedical research due to the improved functionality and viability of the in vitro biological system.  The combination of 3-dimensional hydrogel cell cultures with microchip technology further allows (i) spatial and temporal control of cell growth, (ii) application of defined mechanical (e.g., shear, strain, stretch) and chemical (e.g., gradients) stimuli, as well as (iii)  monitoring of dynamic cellular responses using integrated sensing strategies. The main advantage of hydrogels for microfluidic cell  cultures, however, is their mimicry of extracellular matrix structures including adequate porosity for cellular organization,  biocompatibility, and representative stiffness, all key parameters that promote native-like tissue function. This review focuses  primarily on recent advances in biologically inspired microfluidic systems that are based on 3-dimensional hydrogel cell cultures and  discusses advantages and current challenges, various applications of microfluidic hydrogel cell cultures and future perspectives.

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