Endocrine system on chip for a diabetes treatment model

Biofabrication. 2017 Feb 21;9(1):015021. doi: 10.1088/1758-5090/aa5cc9.


The endocrine system is a collection of glands producing hormones which, among others, regulates metabolism, growth and development. One important group of endocrine diseases is diabetes, which is caused by a deficiency or diminished effectiveness of endogenous insulin. By using a microfluidic perfused 3D cell-culture chip, we developed an 'endocrine system on chip' to potentially be able to screen drugs for the treatment of diabetes by measuring insulin release over time. Insulin-secreting β-cells are located in the pancreas, while L-cells, located in the small intestines, stimulate insulin secretion. Thus, we constructed a co-culture of intestinal-pancreatic cells to measure the effect of glucose on the production of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) from the L-cell line (GLUTag) and insulin from the pancreatic β-cell line (INS-1). After three days of culture, both cell lines formed aggregates, exhibited 3D cell morphology, and showed good viability (>95%). We separately measured the dynamic profile of GLP-1 and insulin release at glucose concentrations of 0.5 and 20 mM, as well as the combined effect of GLP-1 on insulin production at these glucose concentrations. In response to glucose stimuli, GLUTag and INS-1 cells produced higher amounts of GLP-1 and insulin, respectively, compared to a static 2D cell culture. INS-1 combined with GLUTag cells exhibited an even higher insulin production in response to glucose stimulation. At higher glucose concentrations, the diabetes model on chip showed faster saturation of the insulin level. Our results suggest that the endocrine system developed in this study is a useful tool for observing dynamical changes in endocrine hormones (GLP-1 and insulin) in a glucose-dependent environment. Moreover, it can potentially be used to screen GLP-1 analogues and natural insulin and GLP-1 stimulants for diabetes treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Cell Line
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / pathology
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 / metabolism*
  • Glucose / pharmacology
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / cytology
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / drug effects
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism
  • Lab-On-A-Chip Devices*
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Models, Biological*
  • Rats


  • Actins
  • Insulin
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1
  • Glucose