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Combining microfluidics and extracellular matrices (ECM) has shown to be a promising system to create more in vivo-like 3D environments. Some publications have shown different methods to craft such environments. For example:
- Bruzewicz, et al. (Lab Chip. 2008 May;8(5):663-71. doi: 10.1039/b719806j. Epub 2008 Mar 20) have shown that using a soft-lithographic molding gel such as Matrigel matrix or Collagen to encapsulate cells in a microfluidic channel and chambers yielded a permeable system where media could flow to feed the encapsulated cells.
- Jang, et al. (ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2015 Feb 4;7(4):2183-8. doi: 10.1021/am508292t. Epub 2015 Jan 21) have applied flow across the bulk gel during the gelation process to orient the ECM components with the direction of the flow, compared with randomly cross-linked Matrigel matrix.
- Tumour-on-a-chip: microfluidic models of tumour morphology, growth and microenvironment is a recently published review article by Tsai, et al. (J R Soc Interface. 2017 Jun; 14(131): 20170137).
Understanding the biophysical cues of the 3D environment such as topography, stiffness, viscosity and porosity have shown to be important to mimic the in vivo environment. Modulating and tuning the tensile strength of the Matrigel matrix gel in a 3D environment may be beneficial to provide softer or stiffer gels to suit application need. Empirical studies may show that a stiffer gel (higher protein concentration), may reduce dilution of the gel caused by the flow in the microfluidic chip.
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