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Microfluidic analysis of heterotypic cellular interactions: a review of techniques and applications

Sakthivel, Kabilan, O’Brien, Allen, Kim, Keekyoung, Hoorfar, Mina
Trends in analytical chemistry 2019
cell communication, coculture, disease models, droplets, drugs, engineering, guidelines, screening
Analyzing heterotypic cellular communications is essential to understand various physiological and pathological mechanisms. Although static, 2-dimensional in vitro cell monoculture models allow a high degree of experimental control, they poorly approximate in vivo conditions due to the lack of heterotypic cellular interactions. Co-culture systems permit such interactions and recently, microfluidic platforms have been significantly used for co-culturing due to their various benefits in closely mimicking in vivo microenvironment. This review paper outlines the factors influencing co-culture systems and identifies the available engineering methods for forming co-cultures. The paper also reviews the different microfluidic co-culturing techniques based on conventional, compartmentalized and droplet microfluidic methods and discuss their applications in engineering organ and disease models and drug screening. The categorization of recently developed in vitro organ and disease models based on the different microfluidic co-culture techniques will serve as a guideline for choosing the appropriate method for an intended cell-cell communication study.