Microfluidics in male reproduction: Is ex vivo culture of primate testis tissue a future strategy for assisted reproductive technologies or toxicology research?

Swati Sharma, Bastien Venzac, Thomas Burgers, Severine le Gac, Stefan Schlatt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

The significant rise in male infertility disorders over the years has led to extensive research efforts to recapitulate the process of male gametogenesis in vitro and to identify essential mechanisms involved in spermatogenesis, notably for clinical applications. A promising technology to bridge this research gap is organ-on-chip (OoC) technology, which has gradually transformed the research landscape in ART and offers new opportunities to develop advanced in vitro culture systems. With exquisite control on a cell or tissue microenvironment, customized organ-specific structures can be fabricated in in vitro OoC platforms, which can also simulate the effect of in vivo vascularization. Dynamic cultures using microfluidic devices enable us to create stimulatory effect and non-stimulatory culture conditions. Noteworthy is that recent studies demonstrated the potential of continuous perfusion in OoC systems using ex vivo mouse testis tissues. Here we review the existing literature and potential applications of such OoC systems for male reproduction in combination with novel bio-engineering and analytical tools. We first introduce OoC technology and highlight the opportunities offered in reproductive biology in general. In the subsequent section, we discuss the complex structural and functional organization of the testis and the role of the vasculature-associated testicular niche and fluid dynamics in modulating testis function. Next, we review significant technological breakthroughs in achieving in vitro spermatogenesis in various species and discuss the evidence from microfluidics-based testes culture studies in mouse. Lastly, we discuss a roadmap for the potential applications of the proposed testis-on-chip culture system in the field of primate male infertility, ART and reproductive toxicology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-192
JournalMolecular Human Reproduction
Volume26
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • UT-Hybrid-D
  • Germ cells
  • Male infertility
  • Microfluidics
  • Organ-on-a-chip
  • Reproductive toxicology
  • Seminiferous tubules
  • Sperm
  • Testes
  • Testis-on-chip
  • Clinical applications

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