Modular Tissue Engineering: Engineering Biological Tissues from the Bottom Up

Soft Matter. 2009;5(7):1312-1319. doi: 10.1039/b814285h.


Tissue engineering creates biological tissues that aim to improve the function of diseased or damaged tissues. To enhance the function of engineered tissues there is a need to generate structures that mimic the intricate architecture and complexity of native organs and tissues. With the desire to create more complex tissues with features such as developed and functional microvasculature, cell binding motifs and tissue specific morphology, tissue engineering techniques are beginning to focus on building modular microtissues with repeated functional units. The emerging field known as modular tissue engineering focuses on fabricating tissue building blocks with specific microarchitectural features and using these modular units to engineer biological tissues from the bottom up. In this review we will examine the promise and shortcomings of "bottom-up" approaches to creating engineered biological tissues. Specifically, we will survey the current techniques for controlling cell aggregation, proliferation and extracellular matrix deposition, as well as approaches to generating shape-controlled tissue modules. We will then highlight techniques utilized to create macroscale engineered biological tissues from modular microscale units.