Engineered microsystems for in vitro studies of cultured cells are evolving from simple 2D platforms to 3D architectures and organoid cultures. Despite advances
in reproducing ever more sophisticated biology in these systems, there remain foundational challenges in re-creating key aspects of tissue composition, architecture, and mechanics that are critical to recapitulating in vivo
processes. Against the backdrop of current progress in 3D fabrication methods, we evaluate the key requirements for the next generation of cellular platforms. We postulate that these future platforms – apart from building tissue-like structures – will need to have the ability to readily sense and autonomously modulate tissue responses over time, as occurs in natural microenvironments. Such interactive robotic platforms that report and guide cellular events will enable us to probe a previously inaccessible class of questions in cell biology.