Embryogenesis is not only interesting as a research base perspective but also from applied tissue engineering point of view because this is how tissues are created naturally.
In only a few days, a mammalian fertilized egg undergoes cell divisions and subsequent reorganization to progress through morula and then blastocyst. Some cells of the inner cell mass give rise to a surface layer known as primitive endoderm, and the others epithelialize to form the epiblast layer. This epiblast cell layer, pluripotent tissue, then undergoes gastrulation to develop all tissues and organs of the embryo. As these stages of development are not accessible in many organisms due to ethical and practical challenges, the bulk of our understanding is derived from mice. Therefore, an in vitro model is needed to replicate in vivo structure and microenvironment and study pre-implantation mammalian development in a physiologically relevant form.
Overall, we could rapidly prototype a microfluidic platform in an easy, fast and low-cost manner that allows us to control concentration gradients of relevant signals over selected positions of suspended cell sheet, where there is a need. As we aimed to make microfluidic fabrication more accessible to biology labs with no expertise in microfluidic field, this work also led to an easy-to-use kit to make microfluidics available to non-experts. We could also successfully teach this technique to graduate students, professionals at the university level, and younger students (grade 6-8) at summer camp.
Cell sheet formation was successful to some extent using an artificial extracellular matrix, StemAdhere, however, these suspended cell sheets could not resist the compression caused by clamping the device.