Cyborg and Bionic Systems: Signposting the FutureRead the full article
The Open Access journal Cyborg and Bionic Systems, published in association with BIT, promotes the knowledge interchange and hybrid system codesign between living beings and robotic systems.
Cyborg and Bionic Systems’ editorial board is led by Toshio Fukuda (Beijing Institute of Technology) and is comprised of experts who have made significant and well recognized contributions to the field.
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Pulsed Microfluid Force-Based On-Chip Modular Fabrication for Liver Lobule-Like 3D Cellular Models
In vitro three-dimensional (3D) cellular models with native tissue-like architectures and functions have potential as alternatives to human tissues in regenerative medicine and drug discovery. However, it is difficult to replicate liver constructs that mimic in vivo microenvironments using current approaches in tissue engineering because of the vessel-embedded 3D structure and complex cell distribution of the liver. This paper reports a pulsed microflow-based on-chip 3D assembly method to construct 3D liver lobule-like models that replicate the spatial structure and functions of the liver lobule. The heterogeneous cell-laden assembly units with hierarchical cell distribution are fabricated through multistep photopatterning of different cell-laden hydrogels. Through fluid force interaction by pulsed microflow, the hierarchical assembly units are driven to a stack, layer by layer, and thus spatially assemble into 3D cellular models in the closed liquid chamber of the assembly chip. The 3D models with liver lobule-like hexagonal morphology and radial cell distribution allow the dynamic perfusion culture to maintain high cell viability and functional expression during long-term culture in vitro. These results demonstrate that the fabricated 3D liver lobule-like models are promising for drug testing and the study of individual diagnoses and treatments.
An Electrical Stimulation Culture System for Daily Maintenance-Free Muscle Tissue Production
Low-labor production of tissue-engineered muscles (TEMs) is one of the key technologies to realize the practical use of muscle-actuated devices. This study developed and then demonstrated the daily maintenance-free culture system equipped with both electrical stimulation and medium replacement functions. To avoid ethical issues, immortal myoblast cells C2C12 were used. The system consisting of gel culture molds, a medium replacement unit, and an electrical stimulation unit could produce 12 TEMs at one time. The contractile forces of the TEMs were measured with a newly developed microforce measurement system. Even the TEMs cultured without electrical stimulation generated forces of almost 2 mN and were shortened by 10% in tetanic contractions. Regarding the contractile forces, electrical stimulation by a single pulse at 1 Hz was most effective, and the contractile forces in tetanus were over 2.5 mN. On the other hand, continuous pulses decreased the contractile forces of TEMs. HE-stained cross-sections showed that myoblast cells proliferated and fused into myotubes mainly in the peripheral regions, and fewer cells existed in the internal region. This must be due to insufficient supplies of oxygen and nutrients inside the TEMs. By increasing the supplies, one TEM might be able to generate a force up to around 10 mN. The tetanic forces of the TEMs produced by the system were strong enough to actuate microstructures like previously reported crawling robots. This daily maintenance-free culture system which could stably produce TEMs strong enough to be utilized for microrobots should contribute to the advancement of biohybrid devices.
Bioprinted Vascularized Mature Adipose Tissue with Collagen Microfibers for Soft Tissue Regeneration
The development of soft tissue regeneration has recently gained importance due to safety concerns about artificial breast implants. Current autologous fat graft implantations can result in up to 90% of volume loss in long-term outcomes due to their limited revascularization. Adipose tissue has a highly vascularized structure which enables its proper homeostasis as well as its endocrine function. Mature adipocytes surrounded by a dense vascular network are the specific features required for efficient regeneration of the adipose tissue to perform host anastomosis after its implantation. Recently, bioprinting has been introduced as a promising solution to recreate in vitro this architecture in large-scale tissues. However, the in vitro induction of both the angiogenesis and adipogenesis differentiations from stem cells yields limited maturation states for these two pathways. To overcome these issues, we report a novel method for obtaining a fully vascularized adipose tissue reconstruction using supporting bath bioprinting. For the first time, directly isolated mature adipocytes encapsulated in a bioink containing physiological collagen microfibers (CMF) were bioprinted in a gellan gum supporting bath. These multilayered bioprinted tissues retained high viability even after 7 days of culture. Moreover, the functionality was also confirmed by the maintenance of fatty acid uptake from mature adipocytes. Therefore, this method of constructing fully functional adipose tissue regeneration holds promise for future clinical applications.
Challenges and Possibilities of Cell-Based Tissue-Engineered Vascular Grafts
There is urgent demand for biologically compatible vascular grafts for both adult and pediatric patients. The utility of conventional nonbiodegradable materials is limited because of their thrombogenicity and inability to grow, while autologous vascular grafts involve considerable disadvantages, including the invasive procedures required to obtain these healthy vessels from patients and insufficient availability in patients with systemic atherosclerosis. All of these issues could be overcome by tissue-engineered vascular grafts (TEVGs). A large body of evidence has recently emerged in support of TEVG technologies, introducing diverse cell sources (e.g., somatic cells and stem cells) and novel fabrication methods (e.g., scaffold-guided and self-assembled approaches). Before TEVG can be applied in a clinical setting, however, several aspects of the technology must be improved, such as the feasibility of obtaining cells, their biocompatibility and mechanical properties, and the time needed for fabrication, while the safety of supplemented materials, the patency and nonthrombogenicity of TEVGs, their growth potential, and the long-term influence of implanted TEVGs in the body must be assessed. Although recent advances in TEVG fabrication have yielded promising results, more research is needed to achieve the most feasible methods for generating optimal TEVGs. This article reviews multiple aspects of TEVG fabrication, including mechanical requirements, extracellular matrix components, cell sources, and tissue engineering approaches. The potential of periodic hydrostatic pressurization in the production of scaffold-free TEVGs with optimal elasticity and stiffness is also discussed. In the future, the integration of multiple technologies is expected to enable improved TEVG performance.
Design of Temperature-Responsive Cell Culture Surfaces for Cell Sheet Engineering
Temperature-responsive cell culture surfaces, which modulate cell attachment/detachment characteristics with temperature, have been used to fabricate cell sheets. Extensive study on fabrication of cell sheet with the temperature-responsive cell culture surface, manipulation, and transplantation of the cell sheet has established the interdisciplinary field of cell sheet engineering, in which engineering, biological, and medical fields closely collaborate. Such collaboration has pioneered cell sheet engineering, making it a promising and attractive technology in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. This review introduces concepts of cell sheet engineering, followed by designs for the fabrication of various types of temperature-responsive cell culture surfaces and technologies for cell sheet manipulation. The development of various methods for the fabrication of temperature-responsive cell culture surfaces was also summarized. The availability of cell sheet engineering for the treatment and regeneration of damaged human tissue has also been described, providing examples of the clinical application of cell sheet transplantation in humans.
Cell-Based Biohybrid Sensor Device for Chemical Source Direction Estimation
This paper describes a method to estimate the direction from which the signal molecule reaches the sensor by using living cells. In this context, biohybrid sensors that utilize a sophisticated sensing system of cells can potentially offer high levels of chemical-detection sensitivity and selectivity. However, biohybrid-sensor-based chemical-source-direction estimation has not received research attention because the cellular response to chemicals has not been examined in the context of directional information. In our approach, we fabricated a device that can limit the interface between the cell-laden hydrogel and the chemical solution of interest to enhance the time difference over which the chemical solution reaches the cells. Chemical detection by cells that express specific receptors is reflected as the fluorescence of the calcium indicator within the cells. Our device has eight chambers that each house 3D cell-laden collagen hydrogels facing circularly outward. The device also works as a cover to prevent chemicals from permeating the hydrogel from above. In our study, by observing the time course of the fluorescence emission of each chamber, we were able to successfully estimate the chemical-source direction within an error range of 7–13°. Our results suggest that a combination of microstructure devices embedded with living cells can be used to exploit cell functionalities to yield chemical-source directional information.