Going with the flow: microfluidic platforms in vascular tissue engineering

Curr Opin Chem Eng. 2014 Feb;3:42-50. doi: 10.1016/j.coche.2013.11.001.


Vascularization of tissue-engineered constructs, requiring the transport of oxygen, nutrients and waste through a thick and cellular dense meshwork, continues to hamper the success of the technology in addressing the donor organ shortage crisis. Microfluidic technology has emerged as a viable alternative to traditional in vitro platforms utilized by tissue engineers, to understand how the complex cellular microenvironment directs vascular cell behavior and functionality. In this review, the essence of microfluidic technology and transport phenomenon that make them unique for vascular tissue engineering will be briefly introduced. The main scope of this review is to expose how new and innovative microfluidic fabrication techniques are being utilized for exciting applications that have allowed insight into the spatio/temporal dynamics of vascular cell behavior. Specifically, microfluidic devices which range in functionality from simultaneously controlling oxygen and shear stress levels to perfusable biopolymer networks, will be discussed in the context of how they bolster traditional in vitro platforms, by providing greater data output, accessibility, and physiological relevance.