Assembly of cell encapsulating building blocks (i.e., microscale hydrogels) has significant applications in areas including regenerative medicine, tissue engineering, and cell-based in vitro assays for pharmaceutical research and drug discovery. Inspired by the repeating functional units observed in native tissues and biological systems (e.g., the lobule in liver, the nephron in kidney), assembly technologies aim to generate complex tissue structures by organizing microscale building blocks. Novel assembly technologies enable fabrication of engineered tissue constructs with controlled properties including tunable microarchitectural and predefined compositional features. Recent advances in micro- and nano-scale technologies have enabled engineering of microgel based three dimensional (3D) constructs. There is a need for high-throughput and scalable methods to assemble microscale units with a complex 3D micro-architecture. Emerging assembly methods include novel technologies based on microfluidics, acoustic and magnetic fields, nanotextured surfaces, and surface tension. In this review, we survey emerging microscale hydrogel assembly methods offering rapid, scalable microgel assembly in 3D, and provide future perspectives and discuss potential applications.
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