Microvasculature on a chip: study of the Endothelial Surface Layer and the flow structure of Red Blood Cells

Results are encouraging

Microvasculatures-on-a-chip, i.e. in vitro models that mimic important features of microvessel networks, have gained increasing interest in recent years. Such devices have allowed investigating pathophysiological situations involving abnormal biophysical interactions between blood cells and vessel walls. Still, a central question remains regarding the presence, in such biomimetic systems, of the endothelial glycocalyx. The latter is a glycosaminoglycans-rich surface layer exposed to blood flow, which plays a crucial role in regulating the interactions between circulating cells and the endothelium. Here, we use confocal microscopy to characterize the layer expressed by endothelial cells cultured in microfluidic channels. We show that, under our culture conditions, endothelial cells form a confluent layer on all the walls of the circuit and display a glycocalyx that fully lines the lumen of the microchannels. Moreover, the thickness of this surface layer is found to be on the order of 600 nm, which compares well with measurements performed ex or in vivo on microcapillaries. Furthermore, we investigate how the presence of endothelial cells in the microchannels affects their hydrodynamic resistance and the near-wall motion of red blood cells. Our study thus provides an important insight into the physiological relevance of in vitro microvasculatures.

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