The interaction of immune cells with drugs and/or with other cell types should be mechanistically investigated in order to reduce attrition of new drug development. However, they are currently only limited technologies that address this need. In our work, we developed initial but significant building blocks that enable such immune-drug studies. We developed a novel microfluidic platform replicating the Lymph Node (LN) microenvironment called LN-on-a-chip, starting from design all the way to microfabrication, characterization and validation in terms of architectural features, fluidics, cytocompatibility, and usability. To prove the biomimetics of this microenvironment, we inserted different immune cell types in a microfluidic device, which showed an in-vivo-like spatial distribution. We demonstrated that the developed LN-on-a-chip incorporates key features of the native human LN, namely, (i) similarity in extracellular matrix composition, morphology, porosity, stiffness, and permeability, (ii) compartmentalization of immune cells within distinct structural domains, (iii) replication of the lymphatic fluid flow pattern, (iv) viability of encapsulated cells in collagen over the typical timeframe of immunotoxicity experiments, and (v) interaction among different cell types across chamber boundaries. Further studies with this platform may assess the immune cell function as a step forward to disclose the effects of pharmaceutics to downstream immunology in more physiologically relevant microenvironments.
Keywords: biomimicry; drug development; lymph node; microfabrication; microfluidics; organ-on-a-chip.