Application of Biogelx hydrogels in 3d osteoarthritis in-vitro model

Interview with David Hughes

David Hughes is one of our new Biogelx sponsored PhD students.His MRS funded project aims to develop a reproducible and easily manipulated 3D osteoarthritis in vitro model by using BiogelxTM peptide hydrogelsto examine bone and cartilage crosstalk in healthy and pathological ageing. In this interview, he speaks about his research and shares his hands-on experiences working with our products.

  1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a PhD student from central Scotland with a keen interest in biomedical science; I originally undertook an undergraduate degree in Biology and Psychology. Due to my interest particularly in the biological side of my studies I then went on to pursue an MSc in Biomedical Science and Drug Design. This masters gave me an insight into tissue culture and its potential research value which lead me to where I am today. Outside of my studies I am a keen guitarist and play as part of a band.

  1. What research do you focus on?

My research is focused on the development of a novel 3D model to investigate the crosstalk between bone and cartilage in osteoarthritis (OA). Currently there is no validated in vitromodel of the whole joint for OA research and the limitations posed by current 2D techniques necessitates the development of an appropriate 3D model that is more like the in vivoconditions. My PhD is funded by Medical Research Scotland in the lab of Dr Katherine Staines at Edinburgh Napier University.

  1. Why is it so important to use synthetic 3D cell culture materials in your research?

 Synthetic 3D culture materials such as those produced by Biogelx, provide a reliable and reproducible platform that allows me to conduct a variety of techniques on my cells of interest. Importantly synthetic 3D culture systems help eliminate further factors introduced through the variability associated with the use of a biologic system.

  1. Have you tried any alternative materials? What are the key features of a good 3D cell culture?

I have not tried any additional 3D culture materials; however, I believe that the key features of a good 3D cell culture system are biocompatibility, modifiability and ease of handling. These features can allow for the investigation of a broad spectrum of variables across a variety of cell types whilst allowing the researcher additional optimization options which can save time and provide financial benefits.

  1. How easy is to use Biogelx products?

Biogelx products are very easy to use, it’s as simple as weighing a powder out, rehydrating it and then adding the cell culture media that contains divalent cations to promote cross-linkage. The resources required to do this are commonplace in biomedical laboratories, keeping the gel preparation process simple and accessible.

  1. What cell types do you use in your research? Please share your experience in growing cells in our gel(s). If you have any pictures that you can share, please do.

My research is still in early stages – I’ve been working with chondrocytes in the gels and have had no issues so far. Chondrocytes are the cells found in the cartilage, which covers the ends of the bones in the joint. Preliminary imaging shows that the cells seeded on the gels take on the characteristic rounded chondrocyte shape associated with their in vivomorphology; chondrocytes plated in a monolayer do not display this and take on a fibroblast-like shape, which is not ideal for investigating these cells and their functions in vitro.

  1. What are the next steps in your research?

The next steps in my research will involve characterising the morphology and molecular phenotype of the chondrocytes and comparing it between cells cultured in monolayers (2D) and in Biogelx hydrogels (3D). Following on from this I intend to conduct similar optimisation on cells from the other joint tissues, before looking to develop my 3D model which I will use to investigate the crosstalk between bone and cartilage in OA.


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