Powering ex vivo tissue models in microfluidic systems
This Frontiers review analyzes the rapidly growing microfluidic strategies that have been employed in attempts to create physio relevant ‘organ-on-chip’ models using primary tissue removed from a body (human or animal). Tissue harvested immediately from an organism, and cultured under artificial conditions is referred to as ex vivo tissue. The use of primary (organotypic) tissue offers unique benefits over traditional cell culture experiments, and microfluidic technology can be used to further exploit these advantages. Defining the utility of particular models, determining necessary constituents for acceptable modeling of in vivo physiology, and describing the role of microfluidic systems in tissue modeling processes is paramount to the future of organotypic models ex vivo. Virtually all tissues within the body are characterized by a large diversity of cellular composition, morphology, and blood supply (e.g., nutrient needs including oxygen). Microfluidic technology can provide a means to help maintain tissue in more physiologically relevant environments, for tissue relevant time-frames (e.g., matching the natural rates of cell turnover), and at in vivo oxygen tensions that can be controlled within modern microfluidic culture systems. Models for ex vivo tissues continue to emerge and grow in efficacy as mimics of in vivo physiology. This review addresses developments in microfluidic devices for the study of tissues ex vivo that can serve as an important bridge to translational value.