Tag Archive: 3D Cell Culture

  1. It is time to think of 3D models! U.S. EPA is phasing out animal research by 2035.

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    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that it plans to stop conducting or funding studies on mammals by 2035. This movement makes EPA the first regulatory agency to put a hard deadline on phasing out animal research.

    “Animal testing is expensive and time-consuming,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Scientific advances that don’t involve animals are allowing researchers to evaluate chemicals faster, more accurately, and at a lower cost.”Therefore, the agency is turning its attention toward non-animal models, such as organ-on-a-chip technology and artificial organs. To help the industry prepare for this change, EPA has announced $4.25 million in funding to five institutions to develop non-animal alternatives to current tests: Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland; Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center, both in Nashville; Oregon State University in Corvallis; and the University of California, Riverside.

    Will advanced 3D cell culture models drive the future?

    Animal models provide a useful tool to study biology, but they are not always able to accurately recapitulate human tissues/diseases.  In vitro 3D cell culture models bridge the gap between unrealistic in vitro 2D culture and animal models, allowing the study of human cells in a physiologically relevant environment with the convenience and speed of an in vitro model.

    3D culture systems can be divided into two broad categories, scaffold-free and scaffold-based methods. For 3D cell culture experiments, scaffold-based systems provide a high degree of reproducibility, and provide physical stability not achieved with scaffold-free methods, but which is generally required for routine assays. Some of the most commonly used types of scaffolds are hydrogels.

    Both natural and synthetic hydrogels have been investigated for the encapsulation of cells due to their potential to better mimic the mechanics, composition, and structural cues of native tissues over polymeric scaffolds.  Naturally derived hydrogels such as those based on ECM protein collagen or commercially available Matrigel (a mixture of basement membrane proteins) possess inherent bioactivity, and they can promote many cellular functions, leading to increased viability, and proliferation. Howeverthe ability to control the properties of such hydrogels is limited, meaning the ability to tailor a 3D model for specific cell/tissue types is limited. Additionally, these animal-derived materials often suffer from poor batch-to-batch reproducibility and complex handling, which are major limitations for their use in drug screening assays. On the other hand, synthetic hydrogels (e.g. PEG, PLA, peptide-based) can be consistently manufactured and can be designed to provide both the optimal physical environment and in some cases chemical cues for specific cell types. However, in some instances, such synthetic materials can often pose significant challenges with respect to biological compatibility and cell viability. This limitation can be overcome by combining natural and synthetic materials to achieve semi-synthetic composite materials, or alternatively, peptide-based hydrogels can be designed to incorporate biomimetic sequences from ECM proteins to create synthetic hydrogels which can mimic in vivo functionality.


    If you want to learn more about how peptide-based hydrogels can change the outcome of your future research, contact us.

  2. Advanced Biomaterials a key focus in the development of Bioorthogonal and Bioresponsive Strategies with Therapeutic Potential

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    Last week, Biogelx’s Marie Sklodowska-Curie Researcher Africa Galvez-Flores attended the 2ndedition of the Bioorthogonal and Bioresponsive symposium.The event was organised and hosted by the Royal Society of Chemistry and the University of Edinburgh Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine; and brought together international scientists from very diverse backgrounds interested in the latest advances in emerging bioorthogonal and bioresponsive strategies. The subject of discussion covered areas of organic, physical, biological and medicinal chemistry, as well as catalysis, nanoscience and biomaterials.

    The conference opened with a talk from Professor Vincent Rotello, from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. As well as being a distinguished scientist, Professor Rotello is an amazing speaker, who engaged the audience with his talk on his latest research on “nanozymes“. These are sophisticated enzyme-like nanoparticles that encapsulate transition metal catalysts for inclusion in bioorthogonal systems, a technology that might have further biomedical applications in cancer treatment. Afterwards, Professor Sarah Heilshorn, from the Materials Science & Engineering Department at Stanford University, talked about adaptive and injectable synthetic hydrogels for regenerative medicine and possible implications in cell transplantation for spinal cord injury. The day continued with a range of flash presentations, poster session and a talk on super-resolution microscopy for the study of the behaviour of nanomaterials, with a focus on drug delivery. This was given by Professor Lorenzo Albertazzi, from the Eindhoven University of Technology and the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia. The following day, the attendees had the opportunity to learn from the research of scientists such as Professor Karen Faulds, from the University of Strathclyde, among others. Faulds’ work focuses on novel bioanalytical detection strategies and includes research on visualising 3D breast cancer tumour models.

    All in all, the B&B 2019 symposium was a fantastic opportunity to hear from and exchange ideas with leading UK and international experts in Bioorthogonal and Bioresponsive strategies, with an emphasis on their usage as part of promising therapies. The potential of many of these systems rely on the development of advanced biomaterials for nanoparticle and 3D-model engineering, all of which Biogelx has particular interest in, with these being key research themes within the THERACAT project, in which the company is a key consortium member.

    THERACAT is a Horizon2020 funded Marie Skłodowska-Curie European Training Network (H2020-MSCA-ITN-2017, Project 765497). It is a multidisciplinary programme, with expertise, cutting-edge facilities, and complementary skills for the development of new catalysis-based approaches to anticancer therapies. Biogelx’s focus is on the development of realistic 3D cancer models using our proprietary peptide hydrogel technology to test the delivery and effectiveness of bio-orthogonal catalytic systems for the treatment of cancer.


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    The THERACAT Project gets off to a flying start!

    Biogelx™ injectable hydrogels are used to locally deliver drugs into the lesion cavity


  3. Biogelx™ injectable hydrogels are used to locally deliver drugs into the lesion cavity

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    Spotlight interview with Alba Guijarro Belmaris

    Alba Guijarro Belmaris a PhD student at the University of Aberdeen investigating new therapies for spinal cord injury. Her project focusses on a combinatorial approach, combining the use of novel axon growth-promoting molecules and tissue-engineering biomaterial strategies, thus creating a permissive and encouraging environment for injured spinal nerve processes to regrow. In this interview, she speaks about her research and shares her hands-on experiences working with our Biogelx™ peptide hydrogels products.

    1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

    I am Alba Guijarro Belmar, PhD candidate of the University of Aberdeen. I am part of the Aberdeen Spinal Injury Research Team and my project is funded by the International Spinal Research Trust. Part of my project uses Biogelx materials to form injectable hydrogels as a way to locally deliver drugs into the lesion cavity formed after spinal cord injury.

    2. What research does you/your lab focus on?

    Our lab focuses on biomaterial-based combinatory therapies for spinal cord injury repair. In order to test a suitable biomaterial for spinal cord repair we use in vitro, ex vivo and in vivo models of spinal cord injury.

    3. Why is it so important to use synthetic 3D Cell Culture materials in your research?

    We found synthetic biomaterials are very stable and reproducible which are key features for our research. Synthetic biomaterials also allow to incorporate different motifs to be optimized for the specific requirement.

    4. What are the key features of a good hydrogel?

    For my project the key features of a good hydrogel are the following: capability to be tuned to the specific stiffness that matches CNS, functionalization with motifs that promote neuronal cells attachment, good degradation profile, self-assembling behaviour and being an injectable hydrogel. As previously mentioned stability and reproducibility are also key factors in our research.

    5. How easy is to use Biogelx products (hydrogels/bio-ink)?

    I found Biogelx products very easy to handle. The given protocols are very detailed and clear with multiple formation formats available. You just need to weight the required Biogelx powder and mix it with the specific volume of water needed to create the pre-gel solution. You can even incorporate different drugs or cells at this step.

    6. What cell types do you use in your research? Please share your experience in growing cells in our hydrogel.

    In my project I mainly use primary neurons (e.g. dorsal root neurons, cortical neurons) but also primary glial cells like astrocytes and microglia. These cells grew well in Biogelx hydrogel in my experience.

    7. What are the next steps in your research?

    We may try different hydrogels from the range of products that Biogelx offers to identify the optimal hydrogel for the purpose of our research.


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  4. Biogelx collaborate with academia to solve the problem of bone degradation.

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    At Biogelx we are always keen to collaborate with academia and learn more about the exciting applications our academic collaborators are working in. Check out the cool images PhD researcher Mattia Vitale has been capturing of Pre-Osteoclast (Raw 264.7) cells on our Biogelx™-GFOGER gels. Mattia is a PhD student at the University of Manchester who is working on a Medical Research Council CASE project, supported by Biogelx, focused on the development of customized collagen-hydrogel matrices for osteoclast differentiation and culture.

    Osteoclasts are phagocytic cells that degrade bone as part of its homeostatic regulation. Osteoclasts are abnormally activated in several pathologies that result in bone mass loss and increased risk of fractures. Thus, there is interest in the development of therapeutics for pharmacological inhibition of osteoclasts as a strategy to counteract excessive bone degradation. Effective protocols for osteoclast in vitro differentiation, culture and survival are needed to support these pharmacological studies, and it is this challenge that this collaborative project between the University of Manchester and Biogelx aims to address.

    Stay to tuned to the blog to find out more about this project and other exciting collaborations with academia we are involved in.

    Pre-Osteoclast (Raw 264.7) cells are on our Biogelx™-GFOGER gel


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  5. Novel method uses Biogelx™ gels to gain new insights into breast cancer cell migration.


    Spotlight interview with Louise M. Mason

    1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

    My name is Louise Mason, I am currently doing a PhD in Biomedical Engineering (University of Glasgow and CRUK Beatson Institute) funded by SofTMech and supervised by Prof. Huabing Yin (engineering), Prof. Michael Olson (biology) and Prof. Ray Ogden (mathematics) and in collaboration with Dr. Manlio Tassieri. I previously graduated from Strathclyde University with a Masters in Pure and Applied Chemistry with Drug Discovery.

    2. What research does you/your lab focus on?

    My research focuses on the biomechanical contribution of cells and the extracellular matrix (ECM) to cancer invasion. One of the most destructive characteristics of cancer is metastasis; the ability of primary tumour cells to migrate to form secondary tumours at other locations within the body. How a tumour responds mechanically (structure, stiffness, flow) to its environment and treatment are not well understood. Therefore, there is a need for new methods to measure how cancer cells migrate. So far, we have developed a novel method for measuring the linear viscoelastic properties of complex materials and living cells under physiological conditions. Our method was used to gain new insights into breast cancer cell migration with therapeutics using atomic force microscopy, rheology and traction force microscopy.

    3. Why is it so important to use synthetic 3D Cell Culture materials in your research?

    As my work focuses on cell-ECM biomechanical interactions, it is important to me to move away from standard petri dishes and have a biocompatible scaffold that mimics tissue. With artificial materials, I have more control of the chemistry and stiffness the cells experience to not only mimic natural ECM, but to look at ideal properties for drug delivery materials.

    4. Have you tried any alternative gels/bio-inks? What are the key features of a good gel/bio-ink?

    I have tried a few other materials during my PhD. Besides the obvious factors that the gel should have good optical clarity and biocompatibility, I think the main feature of a good hydrogel is reproducibility. Synthetic alternatives give this control, without the batch-to-batch variation commonly found in animal derived materials. For my work, I am interested in altering chemistry of the fibres as well as stiffness. The bottom-up self-assembly approach to the design of the fibres within the Biogelx gels means the chemical moieties can be altered more easily than other gels I have used.

    5. How easy is to use Biogelx products (hydrogels)?

    The lyophilised products are easy to use as you can prepare it at room temperature by mixing with water and adding media to promote gelation, which is easier than alternatives I have tried previously. A booklet of protocols was included for a variety of cell culture techniques. Initially, finding the right set up for new applications takes some trial and error for any 3D cell culture hydrogel. However, it was quick to find out what works best for my cell line and chosen microscopy techniques.

    6. What cell types do you use in your research? Please share your experience in growing cells in our gel(s).

    I mainly use MDAMB231 breast cancer cells for my research. When culturing in Biogelx gels, I noticed that the cell morphology within the gels looks very similar to that of the cells in their natural ECM. As cancer invades through the body, it travels through a variety of tissue types with largely different physiochemical properties, therefore, being able to tune this in vitrois highly desirable for migration studies.

    7. What are the next steps in your research?

    After researching the dynamic viscoelastic properties and morphology of cancer cells using traditional cell culture techniques, I want to move my studies into more in vivo-like environments, constructed using hydrogels. This will enable me to measure cell migration through biocompatible tissue mimics, and thus linking cell morphology, mechanics with cytoskeletal structure as cancer cells invade through different stiffnesses of tissue. Understanding the mechanical properties of the hydrogels will allow us to quantify the magnitude and direction of forces that the cells exert across each tuned environment.


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