One of the principal limitations to the size of an engineered tissue is oxygen and nutrient transport. Lacking a vascular bed, cells embedded in an engineered tissue will consume all available oxygen within hours while out branching blood vessels will take days to vascularize the implanted tissue. One possible solution is to directly write vascular structures within the engineered tissue prior to implantation, reconstructing the tissue according to its native architecture. The cell patterning technique, laser-guided direct writing (LGDW), can pattern multiple cells types with micrometer resolution on arbitrary surfaces, including biological gels. Here we show that LGDW can pattern human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) in two- and three-dimensions with micrometer accuracy. By patterning HUVEC on Matrigel, we can direct their self-assembly into vascular structures along the desired pattern. Finally, co-culturing the vascular structures with hepatocytes resulted in an aggregated tubular structure similar in organization to a hepatic sinusoid. This capability can facilitate studies of tissue architecture at the single cell level, and of heterotypic interactions underlying processes such as liver and pancreas morphogenesis, differentiation, and angiogenesis.
- Liver tissue engineering
- Optical forces