Spheroids that are formed from aggregated cells have enhanced biological function compared to individual cells. In particular, hetero-spheroids composed of different types of cells, such as hepatocytes and endothelial cells, express tissue specific functions at a high level, which is advantageous for more precise drug screening and biological research. In this study, we propose rapid formation of size-controlled three-dimensional hetero-cell aggregates consisting of hepatocytes and endothelial cells using micro-rotation flow. Based on previous data, these aggregates are expected to ultimately become hetero-spheroids. The hepatocytes are coated with collagen gel films less than 200 nm thick, which were experimentally verified to increase adhesion strength between hepatocytes and endothelial cells. Gel-coated hepatocytes and endothelial cells are collected in an array by micro-rotational flow, thereby forming hetero-cell aggregates within 2 min. This array allowed the size of the three-dimensional cell aggregates to be hydrodynamically controlled, with standard deviations of less than 19%, by varying the cell density of the medium without altering the device geometry. Endothelial cells were successfully and uniformly dispersed in the aggregates. The proposed microfluidic device, with its capability of rapidly forming size-controlled hetero-cell aggregates, will offer an efficient experimental platform for future hetero-spheroid study that will contribute to drug screening and regenerative medicine.
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