New insights in the study of virus and host biology in the context of viral infection are made possible by the development of model systems that faithfully recapitulate the in vivo viral life cycle. Standard tissue culture models lack critical emergent properties driven by cellular organization and in vivo–like function, whereas animal models suffer from limited susceptibility to relevant human viruses and make it difficult to perform detailed molecular manipulation and analysis. Tissue engineering techniques may enable virologists to create infection models that combine the facile manipulation and readouts of tissue culture with the virus-relevant complexity of animal models. Here, we review the state of the art in tissue engineering and describe how tissue engineering techniques may alleviate some common shortcomings of existing models of viral infection, with a particular emphasis on hepatotropic viruses. We then discuss possible future applications of tissue engineering to virology, including current challenges and potential solutions.


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