A microfabricated platform to form three-dimensional toroidal multicellular aggregate
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Techniques that allow cells to self-assemble into three-dimensional (3D) spheroid microtissues provide powerful in vitro models that are becoming increasingly popular in fields such as stem cell research, tissue engineering, and cancer biology. Appropriate simulation of the 3D environment in which tissues normally develop and function is crucial for the engineering of in vitro models that can be used for the formation of complex tissues. We have developed a unique multicellular aggregate formation platform that utilizes a maskless gray-scale photolithography. The cellular aggregate formed using this platform has a toroidal-like geometry and includes a micro lumen that facilitates the supply of oxygen and growth factors and the expulsion of waste products. As a result, this platform was capable of rapidly producing hundreds of multicellular aggregates at a time, and of regulating the diameter of aggregates with complex design. These toroidal multicellular aggregates can grow as long-term culture. In addition, the micro lumen can be used as a continuous channel and for the insertion of a vascular system or a nerve system into the assembled tissue. These platform characteristics highlight its potential to be used in a wide variety of applications, e.g. as a bioactuator, as a micro-machine component or in drug screening and tissue engineering.