Microscale methods to assemble mammalian cells into tissue-like structures
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- Gong, P., Zheng, W., Xiao, D. et al. Sci. China Life Sci. (2012) 55: 862. doi:10.1007/s11427-012-4385-9
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Different cell types make up tissues and organs hierarchically and communicate within a complex, three-dimensional (3D) environment. The in vitro recapitulation of tissue-like structures is meaningful, not only for fundamental cell biology research, but also for tissue engineering (TE). Currently, TE research adopts either the top-down or bottom-up approach. The top-down approach involves defining the macroscopic tissue features using biomaterial scaffolds and seeding cells into these scaffolds. Conversely, the bottom-up approach aims at crafting small tissue building blocks with precision-engineered structural and functional microscale features, using physical and/or chemical approaches. The bottom-up strategy takes advantage of the repeating structural and functional units that facilitate cell-cell interactions and cultures multiple cells together as a functional unit of tissue. In this review, we focus on currently available microscale methods that can control mammalian cells to assemble into 3D tissue-like structures.