Mechanical strain-enabled reconstitution of dynamic environment in organ-on-a-chip platforms: a review

Qianbin Zhao, Tim Cole, Yuxin Zhang, Shi-Yang Tang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Organ-on-a-chip (OOC) uses the microfluidic 3D cell culture principle to reproduce organ- or tissue-level functionality at a small scale instead of replicating the entire human organ. This provides an alternative to animal models for drug development and environmental toxicology screening. In addition to the biomimetic 3D microarchitecture and cell–cell interactions, it has been demonstrated that mechanical stimuli such as shear stress and mechanical strain significantly influence cell behavior and their response to pharmaceuticals. Microfluidics is capable of precisely manipulating the fluid of a microenvironment within a 3D cell culture platform. As a result, many OOC prototypes leverage microfluidic technology to reproduce the mechanically dynamic microenvironment on-chip and achieve enhanced in vitro functional organ models. Unlike shear stress that can be readily generated and precisely controlled using commercial pumping systems, dynamic systems for generating proper levels of mechanical strains are more complicated, and often require miniaturization and specialized designs. As such, this review proposes to summarize innovative microfluidic OOC platforms utilizing mechanical actuators that induce deflection of cultured cells/tissues for replicating the dynamic microenvironment of human organs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number765
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Actuators
  • Mechanical strain
  • Microfluidics
  • Organ-on-a-chip

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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