Shear stress caused by fluid flow is known to promote tissue development from cells in vivo. Therefore, perfusion cultures have been studied to investigate the mechanisms involved and to fabricate engineered tissues in vitro, particularly those that include blood vessels. Microfluidic devices, which function with fine machinery of chambers and microsyringes for fluid flow and have small culture areas, are conventionally used for perfusion culture. In contrast, we have developed a self-driven perfusion culture system by using a paper-based double-layered scaffold as the fundamental component. Gelatin microfibers were electrospun onto a paper material to prepare the scaffold system, in which the constant perfusion of the medium and the scaffold for cell adhesion/proliferation were functionally divided into a paper and a gelatin microfiber layer, respectively. By applying both the capillary action and siphon phenomenon of the paper-based scaffold, which bridged two medium chambers at different height levels, a self-driven medium flow was achieved and the flow rate was also stable, constant, and quantitatively controllable. Moreover, the culture area was enlargeable to the cm2 scale. The endothelial cells cultivated on this system oriented along the medium-flow direction, suggesting that the shear stress caused by medium flow was effectively applied. This perfusion culture system is expected to be useful for fabricating three-dimensional and large engineered tissues in the future.
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