Compartmentalized Culture of Perivascular Stroma and Endothelial Cells in a Microfluidic Model of the Human Endometrium.
The endometrium is the inner lining of the uterus. Following specific cyclic hormonal stimulation, endometrial stromal fibroblasts (stroma) and vascular endothelial cells exhibit morphological and biochemical changes to support embryo implantation and regulate vascular function, respectively. Herein, we integrated a resin-based porous membrane in a dual chamber microfluidic device in polydimethylsiloxane that allows long term in vitro co-culture of human endometrial stromal and endothelial cells. This transparent, 2-μm porous membrane separates the two chambers, allows for the diffusion of small molecules and enables high resolution bright field and fluorescent imaging. Within our primary human co-culture model of stromal and endothelial cells, we simulated the temporal hormone changes occurring during an idealized 28-day menstrual cycle. We observed the successful differentiation of stroma into functional decidual cells, determined by morphology as well as biochemically as measured by increased production of prolactin. By controlling the microfluidic properties of the device, we additionally found that shear stress forces promoted cytoskeleton alignment and tight junction formation in the endothelial layer. Finally, we demonstrated that the endometrial perivascular stroma model was sustainable for up to 4 weeks, remained sensitive to steroids and is suitable for quantitative biochemical analysis. Future utilization of this device will allow the direct evaluation of paracrine and endocrine crosstalk between these two cell types as well as studies of immunological events associated with normal vs. disease-related endometrial microenvironments.