Two-dimensional arrays of cell-laden polymer hydrogel modules

Biomicrofluidics. 2016 Jan 21;10(1):014110. doi: 10.1063/1.4940430. eCollection 2016 Jan.

Abstract

Microscale technologies offer the capability to generate in vitro artificial cellular microenvironments that recapitulate the spatial, biochemical, and biophysical characteristics of the native extracellular matrices and enable systematic, quantitative, and high-throughput studies of cell fate in their respective environments. We developed a microfluidic platform for the generation of two-dimensional arrays of micrometer-size cell-laden hydrogel modules (HMs) for cell encapsulation and culture. Fibroblast cells (NIH 3T3) and non-adherent T cells (EL4) encapsulated in HMs showed high viability and proliferation. The platform was used for real-time studies of the effect of spatial constraints and structural and mechanical properties of HMs on cell growth, both on the level of individual cells. Due to the large number of cell-laden HMs and stochastic cell distribution, cell studies were conducted in a time- and labor efficient manner. The platform has a broad range of applications in the exploration of the role of chemical and biophysical cues on individual cells, studies of in vitro cell migration, and the examination of cell-extracellular matrix and cell-cell interactions.