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Research Highlights

Research Highlights /

Research Highlights

New Microchip Mimicking Bone Tissues Developed

Aug 07, 2020

Research teams from Seoul National University and Chonnam National University made a breakthrough in medical engineering with their recent development of a microchip that mimics bone tissues. SNU Professor JEON Noo Li (Department of Mechanical Engineering), Researchers OH Soojung, JUSO Norhana, KIM Sudong (all from SNU), and Chonnam National University Professor KIM Jangho (Department of Rural and Biosystems Engineering) collaborated in the research. ,

This new platform utilizes microfluidic technology, which produces realistic cell culture microenvironment. This is the same concept with other organs-on-chips. Organs-on-Chips are lab surrogates for actual human organs, invented by Harvard University’s Wyss Institute’s Donald Ingber and Dan Dongeun Huh. These chips recreate the microarchitecture of a specific human organ and mimic the movement of organs.

One of essential element for a successful outcome of tissue engineering, and specifically organ-on-a-chip, is to provide a vascular network that promotes the survival and proliferation of cells in any type of tissue or organ. However, in 2013, the SNU research group created a microfluidic device that could produce a perfusable and functional blood vessel. This research suggested that original vessel device can be a versatile platform in developing vascularized organ-on-a-chip.

For the recently developed microchip that mimic bone tissues, the SNU and CNU research teams utilized the original vessel platform to develop new bone angiogenesis models. The result is a reproduction of highly porous and interconnected structures that mimic a real bone tissue matrix.

SNU and CNU research teams explain in their paper of how the new bone angiogenesis model produces a more in vivo microenvironment for bone vessel sprouting. This development solves previous problems of the other bone tissue mimicking in vitro systems that failed to reflect the complex chemical and mechanical microenvironment of the bone, thus, unable to provide similar in vivo conditions.

Proposed model experiment results showing bone angiogenesis
Proposed model experiment results showing bone angiogenesis

Generally, organs-on-chips are developed as alternatives for animal testing in biomedical, pharmaceutical, and toxicological areas. Specifically, the new microchip will offer a new approach for the investigation of complex biological phenomena as well as for the analysis of drug responses and toxicities in bone tissues. Furthermore, the new model is expected to play a significant role in researching how to reproduce and regenerate new blood vessels. Angiogenesis, the process of generating new blood vessels from pre-existing blood vessels, is involved in endochondral bone formation and bone fracture repair. In relation, the developed microchip predicts and reproduces physiological phenomenon that occur in human and animal bone tissues.

The research was published in the paper called “Microfluidic vascularized bone tissue model with hydroxyapatite-incorporated extracellular matrix,” which appeared in the journal Lab on a Chip, edited by the Royal Society of Chemistry. It was featured as the cover article on the printed issue that released on 21 October. The research was funded by the National Research Foundation of Korea, Ministry of Health and Welfare and Agricultural Research Center.

JUSO Norhana contributed to this article.

Written by BAE Su Hyen, SNU English Editor,
Reviewed by Eli Park Sorensen, SNU Professor of Liberal Studies,