Hydrogel-Based Microfluidic Cell Culture 109
Figure 5.16. Tissue organization, culture and analysis in microsystems. Microsystems can
incorporate 3D scaffolds to guide cell growth, microfluidic systems for nutrient transport,
different techniques for biochemical analysis (such as image-based analysis), to give multi-
ple functionalities on a single chip.
For color reference, see page 264.
of smaller numbers of cells or even individual cells. Integrated sensors include
the microphysiometer to monitor extracellular pH, which indicates functional
responses from cells.
Highly integrated systems will also contribute to the development of portable
point-of-care devices
(Fig. 5.16). Such systems can also be used to study
changes in intracellular processes due to external variables.
This technology
also promises to streamline the process of drug screening by offering simple,
controlled techniques for repeatable assays of in situ cell response. Cancer cells
respond differently to drugs when cultured in Petri dishes as compared to three-
dimensional culture. Hepatocytes, which are important in drug metabolism,
may be used for toxicity studies if more in-vivo-like culture conditions can be
developed. This would also reduce the requirement for animal testing. Three-
dimensional microfluidic cell culture systems have been developed to examine
drug cytotoxicity.
Applications of microfluidic hydrogel-based cell culture include in vitro cell-
based testing in drug discovery research, to screen potential drug candidates and
identify promising molecules.
The rate of publications in the area of microfluidic cell culture is rapidly increasing.
Many aspects of cell culture — proliferation, growth, signaling — are still not well
understood, and much further work will be required to realize the many systems
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110 References
currently imagined: miniature automated labs, portable analysis systems, new
technologies drug discovery, and more.
This work was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research
Council of Canada (NSERC).
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