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Biofabrication. 2010 Dec;2(4):045004. doi: 10.1088/1758-5082/2/4/045004. Epub 2010 Nov 15.

Biofabrication of a three-dimensional liver micro-organ as an in vitro drug metabolism model.

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Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, USA.


In their normal in vivo matrix milieu, tissues assume complex well-organized three-dimensional architectures. Therefore, the primary aim in the tissue engineering design process is to fabricate an optimal analog of the in vivo scenario. This challenge can be addressed by applying emerging layered biofabrication approaches in which the precise configuration and composition of cells and bioactive matrix components can recapitulate the well-defined three-dimensional biomimetic microenvironments that promote cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions. Furthermore, the advent of and refinements in microfabricated systems can present physical and chemical cues to cells in a controllable and reproducible fashion unmatched with conventional cultures, resulting in the precise construction of engineered biomimetic microenvironments on the cellular length scale in geometries that are readily parallelized for high throughput in vitro models. As such, the convergence of layered solid freeform fabrication (SFF) technologies along with microfabrication techniques enables the creation of a three-dimensional micro-organ device to serve as an in vitro platform for cell culture, drug screening or to elicit further biological insights, particularly for NASA's interest in a flight-suitable high-fidelity microscale platform to study drug metabolism in space and planetary environments. The proposed model in this paper involves the combinatorial setup of an automated syringe-based, layered direct cell writing bioprinting process with micro-patterning techniques to fabricate a microscale in vitro device housing a chamber of bioprinted three-dimensional liver cell-encapsulated hydrogel-based tissue constructs in defined design patterns that biomimic the cell's natural microenvironment for enhanced biological functionality. In order to assess the structural formability and biological feasibility of such a micro-organ, reproducibly fabricated tissue constructs were biologically characterized for liver cell-specific function. Another key facet of the in vivo microenvironment that was recapitulated with the in vitro system included the necessary dynamic perfusion of the three-dimensional microscale liver analog with cells probed for their collective drug metabolic function and suitability as a drug metabolism model. This paper details the principles and methods that undergird the direct cell writing biofabrication process development and adaptation of microfluidic devices for the creation of a drug screening model, thereby establishing a novel drug metabolism study platform for NASA's interest to adopt a microfluidic microanalytical device with an embedded three-dimensional microscale liver tissue analog to assess drug pharmacokinetic profiles in planetary environments.

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