Human in vitro vascularized micro-organ and micro-tumor models are reproducible organ-on-a-chip platforms for studies of anticancer drugs.
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Angiogenesis is a complex process that is required for development and tissue regeneration and it may be affected by many pathological conditions. Chemicals and drugs can impact formation and maintenance of the vascular networks; these effects may be both desirable (e.g., anti-cancer drugs) or unwanted (e.g., side effects of drugs). A number of in vivo and in vitro models exist for studies of angiogenesis and endothelial cell function, including organ-on-a-chip microphysiological systems. An arrayed organ-on-a-chip platform on a 96-well plate footprint that incorporates perfused microvessels, with and without tumors, was recently developed and it was shown that survival of the surrounding tissue was dependent on delivery of nutrients through the vessels. Here we describe a technology transfer of this complex microphysiological model between laboratories and demonstrate that reproducibility and robustness of these tissue chip-enabled experiments depend primarily on the source of the endothelial cells. The model was highly reproducible between laboratories and was used to demonstrate the advantages of the perfusable vascular networks for drug safety evaluation. As a proof-of-concept, we tested Fluorouracil (1-1,000 M), Vincristine (1-1,000 nM), and Sorafenib (0.1-100 M), in the perfusable and non-perfusable micro-organs, and in a colon cancer-containing micro-tumor model. Tissue chip experiments were compared to the traditional monolayer cultures of endothelial or tumor cells. These studies showed that human in vitro vascularized micro-organ and micro-tumor models are reproducible organ-on-a-chip platforms for studies of anticancer drugs. The data from the 3D models confirmed advantages of the physiological environment as compared to 2D cell cultures. We demonstrated how these models can be translated into practice by verifying that the endothelial cell source and passage are critical elements for establishing a perfusable model.