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Biomaterials. 2009 Sep;30(27):4833-41. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2009.05.043. Epub 2009 Jun 21.

Control of 3-dimensional collagen matrix polymerization for reproducible human mammary fibroblast cell culture in microfluidic devices.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Interest in constructing a reliable 3-dimensional (3D) collagen culture platform in microfabricated systems is increasing as researchers strive to investigate reciprocal interaction between extracellular matrix (ECM) and cells under various conditions. However, in comparison to conventional 2-dimensional (2D) cell culture research, relatively little work has been reported about the polymerization of collagen type I matrix in microsystems. We, thus, present a study of 3D collagen polymerization to achieve reproducible 3D cell culture in microfluidic devices. Array-based microchannels are employed to efficiently examine various polymerization conditions, providing more replicates with less sample volume than conventional means. Collagen fibers assembled in microchannels were almost two-times thinner than those in conventional gels prepared under similar conditions, and the fiber thickness difference influenced viability and morphology of embedded human mammary fibroblast (HMF) cells. HMF cells contained more actin stress fibers and showed increased viability in 3D collagen matrix composed of thicker collagen fibers. Relatively low pH of the collagen solution within a physiological pH range (6.5-8.5) and pre-incubation at low temperature (approximately 4 degrees C) before polymerization at 37 degrees C allow sufficient time for molecular assembly, generating thicker collagen fibers and enhancing HMF cell viability. The results provide the basis for improved process control and reproducibility of 3D collagen matrix culture in microchannels, allowing predictable modifications to provide optimum conditions for specific cell types. In addition, the presented method lays the foundation for high throughput 3D cellular screening.

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