Multicellular tubes are structures ubiquitously found during development and in adult organisms. Their topologies (diameter, direction or branching), together with their mechanical characteristics, play fundamental roles in organ function and in the emergence of pathologies. In tubes of micrometric range diameters, typically found in the vascular system, renal tubules or excretory ducts, cells are submitted to a strong curvature and confinement effects in addition to flow. Then, small tubes with change in diameter are submitted to a local gradient of shear stress and curvature, which may lead to complex mechanotransduction responses along tubes, and may be involved in the onset or propagation of cystic or obstructive pathologies. We describe here a simple method to build a microfluidic device that integrates cylindrical channels with changes in diameter that mimic in vivo tube geometries. This microfabrication approach is based on molding of etched tungsten wires, which can achieve on a flexible way any change in diameter in a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) microdevice. The interest of this biomimetic multitube system has been evidenced by reproducing renal tubules on chip. In particular, renal cell lines were successfully seeded and grown in PDMS circular tubes with a transition between 80 μm and 50 μm diameters. Thanks to this biomimetic platform, the effect of the tube curvature has been investigated especially regarding cell morphology and orientation. The effect of shear stress on confluent cells has also been assessed simultaneously in both parts of tubes. It is thus possible to study interconnected cell response to differential constraints which is of central importance when mimicking tubes present in the organism.

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