Current hemodialysis has functional limitations and is insufficient for renal transplantation. The bioartificial tubule device has been developed to contribute to metabolic functions by implanting renal epithelial cells into hollow tubes and showed a higher survival rate in acute kidney injury patients. In healthy kidney, epithelial cells are surrounded by various types of cells that interact with extracellular matrices, which are primarily composed of laminin and collagen. The current study developed a microfluidic coculture platform to enhance epithelial cell function in bioartificial microenvironments with multiple microfluidic channels that are microfabricated by polydimethylsiloxane. Collagen gel (CG) encapsulated with adipose-derived stem cells (CG-ASC) was injected into a central microfluidic channel for three-dimensional (3D) culture. The resuspended Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells were injected into nascent channels and formed an epithelial monolayer. In comparison to coculture different cells using the commercial transwell system, the current coculture device allowed living cell monitoring of both the MDCK epithelial monolayer and CG-ASC in a 3D microenvironment. By coculture with CG-ASC, the cell height was increased with columnar shapes in MDCK. Promotion of cilia formation and functional expression of the ion transport protein in MDCK were also observed in the cocultured microfluidic device. When applying fluid flow, the intracellular protein dynamics can be monitored in the current platform by using the time-lapse confocal microscopy and transfection of GFP-tubulin plasmid in MDCK. Thus, this microfluidic coculture device provides the renal epithelial cells with both morphological and functional improvements that may avail to develop bioartificial renal chips.
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