How does Biogelx differ from other gels currently used as substrates for 3D cell culture?
Gels made from animal-sourced materials have been used extensively as substrates for 3D cell culture in cancer research. The best known is Matrigel, a natural extracellular matrix material reconstituted from a mouse sarcoma with proteins such as laminin and collagen plus unknown growth factors and enzymes. Matrigel has disadvantages, such as that the structure of the scaffold may over time as it is organized and degrade by the cultured cells. Matrigel can also be difficult to use; it must be kept on ice to keep its viscosity low enough for manipulating and mixing with cells.
Collagen type is another gel matrix used for 3D cell culture. One difficulty in working with collagen hydrogels has been changes in volume and swelling of the matrix during culture. Furthermore, animal-derived extracts may contain remaining growth factors and viruses which increase batch-to-batch variability.
Biogelx addresses these challenges with synthetic peptide hydrogels that are biocompatible (peptide-based), can be functionalized with simple biomimetic sequences that are key for several ECM proteins, and mechanically tunable. Biogelx peptide hydrogels are functional nanomaterials that can be modified to obtain desired characteristics by adding different peptide sequences or molecules incorporated within the hydrogel. Furthermore, the gels are temperature independent and have a neutral pH, eliminating other materials and pH-based gelling mechanisms that can expose cells to adverse conditions.
Three dimensional models also allow culturing cancer cells in a spatially relevant manner. Extensive experimental evidence has shown that mechanical stimuli from the tumor microenvironment play a key role in affecting numerous kinds of cell behavior, both in normal and in pathological conditions.
It is also important to regulate hypoxic conditions in 3D tissue culture models to mimic oxygen levels found in native tumors. This is controllable via the 3D matrix and cell density. The stiffness of the matrix affects cell growth and morphology.
Some of the 3D models being used are collagen hydrogels which have major drawback of presenting very low rigidity, which does not mimic the naturally stiff cancer environment. Biogelx hydrogels are mechanically tunable and allow the formation of scaffolds that are mechanically stronger or matrices that match the desired stiffness found in the tissue in vivo.