When it comes to developing new pharmaceuticals and assessing biological, chemical or physical risks, 3D fabric models cultivated in the laboratory are becoming increasingly important as compared to the much less realistic 2D cell layers that have mostly been used up until now. In addition to biological fabric models, whose development is already well advanced, there is a demand for measurement and analysis methods to be able to measure the reaction of the cells to external stimuli as far as possible. Up to now it has generally been necessary to dismantle the fabric in order to access the cells embedded deep within it.
With the project TissueSense, Fraunhofer EMFT researchers are pursuing a fundamentally new concept: instead of installing sensor functions (electrodes, nano probes) in the model fabric subsequently or dismantling them after a predefined exposure period for the purpose of analysis, the 3D fabric model is made of individual layers based on a kind of modular principle. The cultivation of the individual fabric layers is initially carried out in 2D by means of cell monolayers on thin, porous polymer carriers with integrated signal converters. The fabric layers are then assembled in layers made up of these 2D constructs. Since the polymer carriers have a porous structure, the individual cell layers come into contact with each other after assembly to form a 3D construct and are able to exchange substances. By fitting the polymer carriers with signal converters, it is possible to obtain chemical or physical information from each individual cell layer of the 3D fabric model and transfer it in real time.