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PLoS One. 2015 May 12;10(5):e0126797. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0126797. eCollection 2015.

In vitro recapitulation of functional microvessels for the study of endothelial shear response, nitric oxide and [Ca2+]i.

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Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Penn State University, School of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania, United States of America.
Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, United States of America.


Microfluidic technologies enable in vitro studies to closely simulate in vivo microvessel environment with complexity. Such method overcomes certain constrains of the statically cultured endothelial monolayers and enables the cells grow under physiological range of shear flow with geometry similar to microvessels in vivo. However, there are still existing knowledge gaps and lack of convincing evidence to demonstrate and quantify key biological features of the microfluidic microvessels. In this paper, using advanced micromanufacturing and microfluidic technologies, we presented an engineered microvessel model that mimicked the dimensions and network structures of in vivo microvessels with a long-term and continuous perfusion capability, as well as high-resolution and real-time imaging capability. Through direct comparisons with studies conducted in intact microvessels, our results demonstrated that the cultured microvessels formed under perfused conditions recapitulated certain key features of the microvessels in vivo. In particular, primary human umbilical vein endothelial cells were successfully cultured the entire inner surfaces of the microchannel network with well-developed junctions indicated by VE-cadherin staining. The morphological and proliferative responses of endothelial cells to shear stresses were quantified under different flow conditions which was simulated with three-dimensional shear dependent numerical flow model. Furthermore, we successfully measured agonist-induced changes in intracellular Ca2+ concentration and nitric oxide production at individual endothelial cell levels using fluorescence imaging. The results were comparable to those derived from individually perfused intact venules. With in vivo validation of its functionalities, our microfluidic model demonstrates a great potential for biological applications and bridges the gaps between in vitro and in vivo microvascular research.

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