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A 3D-printed Organs-on-a-Chip Device Reveals Clues for Diabetes therapy

Figure 1. The device that contains three cell types mimics an endocrine and hormone transportation process. (Image Credit: Dr. Chengpeng Chen, Saint Louis University)

A recent publication on the back cover of Integrative Biology achieved the investigation of cell-cell interactions between three cell types: pancreatic β-cells, endothelial cells and erythrocytes. This Organs-on-a-Chip device mimics the entering of endocrine secretions into blood flow, as well as subsequent hormone transportation.

As shown in Figure 1, which is the cover printout for this article, the erythrocyte flow mimics a blood circulation, while β-cells cultured on the device secret molecules such as C-peptide and zinc into the flow. It was found that C-peptide and zinc can enhance adenosine triphosphate (ATP) release from erythrocytes, which in turn, plays a role on endothelial cells cultured downstream on the device. Endothelial derived nitric oxide (NO) production is increased, which can be developed to a potential therapy for diabetic complications due to the important role of nitric oxide as a vasodilator.

“3D-printing enables us to build such a complicated multi-cell device so easily”, quoted by Chengpeng Chen, who designed and fabricated the device in this work. “With the application of cell culture membrane inserts that can be plugged in the 3D-printed device , you don’t have to discard a whole device if the cells are not normal, as you usually do with a PDMS based fluidic device”. The device also contains multiple channels for parallel experiments on the same device to reduce inter-device errors. More importantly, the device and the wells on it fit a commercial plate reader for high throughput and convenient optical detections. As shown in Figure 2, the device contains six channels, with three membrane inserts integrated above each channel. The top insert will be used to culture pancreatic β-cells, while the bottom one containing endothelial cells. The middle insert is used as a detection window. Molecules of interest from the erythrocyte flow in the channel can diffuse through the membrane and thus be detected in the middle insert.

This device represents a novel design for Organs-on-a-Chip devices. It can be potentially adapted to physiological studies of cell-cell interactions (i.e. the diabetes study in this work). More importantly, such a multi-cell integrated fluidic device can be applied to assess the toxicity of drugs to certain tissues/cells, which can potentially facilitate the process of new drug development.

3D printed fluidic device-SLU

Figure 2. The 3D-printed fluidic device contains three cell types: pancreatic β-cells, endothelial cells and erythrocytes for investigation of cell-cell interactions (Image Credit: Dr. Chengpeng Chen)

A link to the article:!divAbstract

About the author: 

Dr. Chengpeng Chen obtained Ph.D from Michigan State University in 2015. He works at Martin Research Group in the Department of Chemistry at Saint Louis University. His Research focuses on 3D-printed microfluidic devices, Organs-on-a-Chip, Cell Biology and Bio-engineering.