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Three-dimensional microengineered vascularised endometrium-on-a-chip

  • Ahn, Jungho1, 2
  • Yoon, Min-Ji3
  • Hong, Seon-Hwa4
  • Cha, Hwijae3
  • Lee, Danbi3
  • Koo, Hwa Seon4
  • Ko, Ji-Eun4
  • Lee, Jungseub5
  • Oh, Soojung6
  • Jeon, Noo Li5
  • Kang, Youn-Jung1, 3, 4
  • 1 Department of Biochemistry, Research Institute for Basic Medical Science, School of Medicine, CHA University, Republic of Korea , (South Korea)
  • 2 Research Competency Milestones Program of School of Medicine, CHA University, Republic of Korea , (South Korea)
  • 3 Department of Biomedical Science, School of Life Science, CHA University, Republic of Korea , (South Korea)
  • 4 CHA Fertility Center Bundang, Republic of Korea , (South Korea)
  • 5 Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Seoul National University, Republic of Korea , (South Korea)
  • 6 AMOREPACIFIC Research and Development Center, Republic of Korea , (South Korea)
Published Article
Human Reproduction
Oxford University Press
Publication Date
Aug 07, 2021
DOI: 10.1093/humrep/deab186
PMID: 34363466
PMCID: PMC8450871
PubMed Central
  • AcademicSubjects/MED00905


STUDY QUESTION Can we reconstitute physiologically relevant 3-dimensional (3D) microengineered endometrium in-vitro model? SUMMARY ANSWER Our representative microengineered vascularised endometrium on-a-chip closely recapitulates the endometrial microenvironment that consists of three distinct layers including epithelial cells, stromal fibroblasts and endothelial cells in a 3D extracellular matrix in a spatiotemporal manner. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY Organ-on-a-chip, a multi-channel 3D microfluidic cell culture system, is widely used to investigate physiologically relevant responses of organ systems. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION The device consists of five microchannels that are arrayed in parallel and partitioned by array of micropost. Two central channels are for 3D culture and morphogenesis of stromal fibroblast and endothelial cells. In addition, the outermost channel is for the culture of additional endometrial stromal fibroblasts that secrete biochemical cues to induce directional pro-angiogenic responses of endothelial cells. To seed endometrial epithelial cells, on Day 8, Ishikawa cells were introduced to one of the two medium channels to adhere on the gel surface. After that, the microengineered endometrium was cultured for an additional 5–6 days (total ∼ 14 days) for the purpose of each experiment. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS Microfluidic 3D cultures were maintained in endothelial growth Medium 2 with or without oestradiol and progesterone. Some cultures additionally received exogenous pro-angiogenic factors. For the three distinct layers of microengineered endometrium-on-a-chip, the epithelium, stroma and blood vessel characteristics and drug response of each distinct layer in the microfluidic model were assessed morphologically and biochemically. The quantitative measurement of endometrial drug delivery was evaluated by the permeability coefficients. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE We established microengineered vascularised endometrium-on-chip, which consists of three distinct layers: epithelium, stroma and blood vessels. Our endometrium model faithfully recapitulates in-vivo endometrial vasculo-angiogenesis and hormonal responses displaying key features of the proliferative and secretory phases of the menstrual cycle. Furthermore, the effect of the emergency contraception drug levonorgestrel was evaluated in our model demonstrating increased endometrial permeability and blood vessel regression in a dose-dependent manner. We finally provided a proof of concept of the multi-layered endometrium model for embryo implantation, which aids a better understanding of the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying this process. LARGE SCALE DATA N/A. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION This report is largely an in-vitro study and it would be beneficial to validate our findings using human primary endometrial cells. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS Our 3D microengineered vascularised endometrium-on-a-chip provides a new in-vitro approach to drug screening and drug discovery by mimicking the complicated behaviours of human endometrium. Thus, we suggest our model as a tool for addressing critical challenges and unsolved problems in female diseases, such as endometriosis, uterine cancer and female infertility, in a personalised manner. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S) This work is supported by funding from the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grant funded by the Korea government (MSIT) to Y.J.K. (No. 2018R1C1B6003), to J.A. (No. 2020R1I1A1A01074136) and to H.S.K. (No. 2020R1C1C100787212). The authors report no conflicts of interest.

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