A new approach to embed branched 3D microchannel networks in hydrogel substrates: Fabrication and transport analysis
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The development of technology to engineer tissue and organ structures suitable for implantation and replacement of damaged or diseased counterparts in the body has the potential to save countless lives and catalyze a revolution the field of medicine. But the inability to construct vascular networks inside biomaterial scaffolds that mimic the tree-like 3-D architectures found in nature poses a significant barrier to realizing the vision of producing artificial tissues at organ-level size scales. Here we address this need by developing a novel process to construct sacrificial replicas of branched vascular-like networks using low melting temperature metal that can be embedded in hydrogel matrices. The metal can then be easily removed in a 37 C incubator, leaving behind a hydrogel scaffold containing embedded vasculature. This capability can be harnessed to create a platform for study of the enhanced transport provided by flow through the microchannel network. Copyright (2011) by the Chemical and Biological Microsystems Society.