Offering more dynamic physiological environments
In the human body, cells naturally grow and remodel in extracellular matrices (ECMs) that generate different biophysical, biochemical and mechanical signals to cells. Therefore, the complexities of the ECM environment are important factors to consider when studying physiological pathways and disease progression.
In recent years, researchers have developed organ-on-a-chip devices that combine the complementary technologies of 3D bioprinting and microfluidics to recreate more dynamic physiological environments that support mechanical stimulation, fluid and gas exchange and co-culture interactions.
Recent bioprinting advancements, like multi-printhead technologies, coaxial printing nozzles and light-based bioprinters, are rapidly evolving the field of organs-on-a-chip.
The merger of bioprinting and microfluidics opens the door to on-demand and personalized organ-on-a-chip models and may replace many preclinical steps in future drug trials. Extrusion-based bioprinters like the BIO X combined with microfluidic systems like the VasKit perfusion system allow for complex organ-chip models; and multi-printhead technology can be used in a one-step fabrication design with spatial heterogeneity of tissues. Light-based bioprinters, such as the LUMEN X and HOLOGRAPH X are also useful tools for organ microfluidic systems—individual organ units can be bioprinted with their own vasculatures then connected to others for drug screening or tissue maturation. The clear advantage of using 3D bioprinting with microfluidic designs is related to the ability to create patterned biomimetic heterogeneous microenvironments in an automated manner.