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Our work featured as journal front outside cover of Analyst: Microfluidic technologies for vasculatu

The human vasculature, made up of a complex network of blood vessels including arteries, capillaries, and veins throughout the whole body, plays a significant role in mediating various essential physiological processes and maintaining homeostasis through various biochemical pathways. Malfunctions of the vascular system can result in serious diseases and are closely related to tumor angiogenesis and metastasis in cancer, making it a major threat to human health. Therefore, countless efforts have been conducted to recapitulate vascular models in scientific and clinical settings in order to examine vasculature-related pathologies. Particularly, microfluidic technology has been proven to be a key proponent in enabling the engineering of in vitro human vascular system models.

In this article we reviewed the development of microfluidic technologies for vascular system mimicry, with a focus on vascular studies and generation of vascular-like structures. We summarized the studies using microfluidic circulatory devices to investigate the influence of mechanical forces on 2D-cultured endothelial cells. We also summarized the studies using microfluidic techniques involved in engineering vascular-like structures, which can be grouped into two categories. The first category involves the top-down generation of vascular structures by microfabrication methods centered on three schemes: casting-peeling-bonding, templating, and 3D bioprinting; the other category is the bottom-up self-formation of vascular networks based on 3D cell culture in microfluidic devices. Finally, we discussed the latest research and developments in microfluidic fabrication of artificial vascular systems. The microfluidic technologies for on-chip mimicry of vascular systems reviewed here will advance fundamental and translational research into human vascular systems and vasculature engineering for clinical diagnosis.

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