Microfluidic approaches for engineering vasculature

Abstract

Introduction Vascularization of biomaterials — whether for envisioned applications in tissue engineering or for use in ‘organ-ona-chip’ devices — remains a challenging problem, as a quick glance at many of the reviews in this issue reveals. Traditional methods of vascularization, based on the controlled release of angiogenic factors or on the selforganization of vascular cells into open tubes, have successfully elicited the growth of durable, functional vascular networks in vitro and in vivo [1–4]. Nevertheless, these methods all require at least three days for generation of a perfused vascular network; this waiting period may be a fundamental limit to vascularization strategies that rely in part on biologically-driven tubulogenesis and anastomosis. In addition, these methods cannot easily control the number and placement of vessels within a biomaterial, a goal that may be especially desirable in vascularized tissue arrays for high-throughput screening. Formation of networks on a faster time-scale and with better spatial control requires new strategies that can replace biological processes by other ones.

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