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  1. Tissue engineering has been largely confined to academic research institutions with limited success in commercial settings. To help address this issue, more work is needed to develop new automated manufacturing processes for tissue-related technologies. In this article, we describe the automation of the funnel-guide, an additive manufacturing method that uses living tissue rings as building units to form bio-tubes. We developed a method based on 96-well plates and a modified off-the-shelf liquid-handling robot to retrieve, perform real-time quality control, and transfer tissue rings to the funnel-guide. Cells seeded into 96-well plates containing specially designed agarose micromolds self-assembled and formed ring-shaped microtissues that could be retrieved using a liquid-handling robot. We characterized the effects of time, cell type, and mold geometry on the morphology of the ring-shaped microtissues to inform optimal use of the building parts. We programmed and modified an off-the-shelf liquid-handling robot to retrieve ring-shaped microtissues from the 96-well plates, and we fabricated a custom illuminated pipette to visualize each ring-shaped microtissue prior to deposit in the funnel guide. Imaging at the liquid-air interface presented challenges that were overcome by controlling lighting conditions and liquid curvature. Based on these images, we incorporated into our workflow a real-time quality control step based on visual inspection and morphological criteria to assess each ring prior to use. We used this system to fabricate bio-tubes of endothelial cells with luminal alignment. 
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  2. Abstract

    Dysregulation of extracellular matrix (ECM) synthesis, organization, and mechanics are hallmark features of diseases like fibrosis and cancer. However, most in vitro models fail to recapitulate the three‐dimensional (3D) multi‐scale hierarchical architecture of collagen‐rich tissues and as a result, are unable to mirror native or disease phenotypes. Herein, using primary human fibroblasts seeded into custom fabricated 3D non‐adhesive agarose molds, a novel strategy is proposed to direct the morphogenesis of engineered 3D ring‐shaped tissue constructs with tensile and histological properties that recapitulate key features of fibrous connective tissue. To characterize the shift from monodispersed cells to a highly‐aligned, collagen‐rich matrix, a multi‐modal approach integrating histology, multiphoton second‐harmonic generation, and electron microscopy is employed. Structural changes in collagen synthesis and alignment are then mapped to functional differences in tissue mechanics and total collagen content. Due to the absence of an exogenously added scaffolding material, this model enables the direct quantification of cell‐derived changes in 3D matrix synthesis, alignment, and mechanics in response to the addition or removal of relevant biomolecular perturbations. To illustrate this, the effects of nutrient composition, fetal bovine serum, rho‐kinase inhibitor, and pro‐ and anti‐fibrotic compounds on ECM synthesis, 3D collagen architecture, and mechanophenotype are quantified.

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  3. Abstract

    Engineered tissues usually fall short of physiological cell densities and sizes, resulting in limited functional performance. Viability of large tissues is constrained by inadequate diffusion‐driven nutrient exchange. Methods to form large viable tissues are lacking and are constrained by diffusion‐driven nutrient exchange. Here, the use of the Bio‐Pick, Place, and Perfuse (Bio‐P3) is reported, an integrated biofabrication‐bioreactor platform that semiautomatically and rapidly assembles physiologically cell‐dense macrotissues with 100 million cells while being actively perfused. The Bio‐P3 grips, aligns, and stacks prefabricated, scaffold‐free microtissue parts with integrated lumens on a perfusable build‐platform. Parts spontaneously fuse into one continuous macrotissue with perfusable channels. Customizable microtissues are rapidly prepared up to centimeter‐scale with sustained functional performance. Computational models are developed and experimentally validated to elucidate the effects of perfusion rate and tissue geometry on convective nutrient transport in built macrotissues. It is shown that macrotissues constructed from human hepatocellular microtissues maintain geometry and function (albumin and urea secretion) over 5 days. The Bio‐P3 technology fabricates massive solid tissues with high cell numbers and densities to mimic human physiology for preclinical and clinical applications.

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