Fabrication of extracellular matrix-derived foams and microcarriers as tissue-specific cell culture and delivery platforms
Journal of Visualized Experiments
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© 2017 Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Cell function is mediated by interactions with the extracellular matrix (ECM), which has complex tissue-specific composition and architecture. The focus of this article is on the methods for fabricating ECM-derived porous foams and microcarriers for use as biologically-relevant substrates in advanced 3D in vitro cell culture models or as pro-regenerative scaffolds and cell delivery systems for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Using decellularized tissues or purified insoluble collagen as a starting material, the techniques can be applied to synthesize a broad array of tissue-specific bioscaffolds with customizable geometries. The approach involves mechanical processing and mild enzymatic digestion to yield an ECM suspension that is used to fabricate the three-dimensional foams or microcarriers through controlled freezing and lyophilization procedures. These pure ECM-derived scaffolds are highly porous, yet stable without the need for chemical crosslinking agents or other additives that may negatively impact cell function. The scaffold properties can be tuned to some extent by varying factors such as the ECM suspension concentration, mechanical processing methods, or synthesis conditions. In general, the scaffolds are robust and easy to handle, and can be processed as tissues for most standard biological assays, providing a versatile and user-friendly 3D cell culture platform that mimics the native ECM composition. Overall, these straightforward methods for fabricating customized ECM-derived foams and microcarriers may be of interest to both biologists and biomedical engineers as tissue-specific cell-instructive platforms for in vitro and in vivo applications.