Microphysiological modeling of the reproductive tract: a fertile endeavor

Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2014 Sep;239(9):1192-202. doi: 10.1177/1535370214529387. Epub 2014 Apr 15.


Preclinical toxicity testing in animal models is a cornerstone of the drug development process, yet it is often unable to predict adverse effects and tolerability issues in human subjects. Species-specific responses to investigational drugs have led researchers to utilize human tissues and cells to better estimate human toxicity. Unfortunately, human cell-derived models are imperfect because toxicity is assessed in isolation, removed from the normal physiologic microenvironment. Microphysiological modeling often referred to as 'organ-on-a-chip' or 'human-on-a-chip' places human tissue into a microfluidic system that mimics the complexity of human in vivo physiology, thereby allowing for toxicity testing on several cell types, tissues, and organs within a more biologically relevant environment. Here we describe important concepts when developing a repro-on-a-chip model. The development of female and male reproductive microfluidic systems is critical to sex-based in vitro toxicity and drug testing. This review addresses the biological and physiological aspects of the male and female reproductive systems in vivo and what should be considered when designing a microphysiological human-on-a-chip model. Additionally, interactions between the reproductive tract and other systems are explored, focusing on the impact of factors and hormones produced by the reproductive tract and disease pathophysiology.

Keywords: Microphysiological modeling; repro-on-a-chip; reproductive signaling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical* / instrumentation
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical* / methods
  • Female
  • Genitalia, Female*
  • Genitalia, Male*
  • Humans
  • Lab-On-A-Chip Devices*
  • Male
  • Models, Biological*
  • Tissue Culture Techniques* / instrumentation
  • Tissue Culture Techniques* / methods