In vitro models of the alveolo-pulmonary barrier consist of microvascular endothelial cells and alveolar epithelial cells cultured on opposing sides of synthetic porous membranes. However, these simple models do not reflect the physiological microenvironment of pulmonary cells, wherein cells are exposed to a complex milieu of mechanical and soluble stimuli. In this report, we studied alveolar epithelial (A549) and microvascular endothelial (HMEC-1) cells within varying microfluidic environments as a first step towards building a microfluidic analog of the gas-exchange interface. We fabricated polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) microdevices for parallel studies of cell growth under multiple flow rates. Cells adhered and proliferated in the microculture chambers for shear stresses up to ∼ 2 × 10-3 dynes/cm2, corresponding to media turnover rates of ∼ 53 seconds. Proliferation of these cells into confluent monolayers and expression of cell-specific markers (SP-A and CD-31) demonstrated successful pulmonary cell culture in microscale devices, a first for alveolar epithelial cells. These results represent the initial steps towards the development of microfluidic analogs of the alveolo-pulmonary barrier and tissue engineering of the lung.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine