Matrix-Free 3D Spheroid Technology
Eight to ten years ago, “we said we’ve got video cameras, we’ve got money, whole animal research will come to dominate,” says Mark DeCoster, Ph.D., associate professor, biomedical engineering, Louisiana Tech University (LTU). Since then budgetary constraints have changed the rosy picture. “It’s forced us to become more realistic. So while 2D cell culture won’t go away anytime soon, an intermediate 3D option is needed.”
“We have established a novel matrix-free 3D cell spheroid system that permits growth and maintenance of normal cells, stem cells, and cancer cells,” continues Dr. DeCoster. “In addition to processing of soluble drugs, we are also using our 3D system to evaluate bioprocessing of micro- and nanomaterials.
“We have measured binding and internalization of these materials as well as toxicity of nanomaterials. It is anticipated that 3D systems will provide new information for materials bioprocessing compared to traditional 2D cell culture systems due to differences in diffusion and cell-cell communication.”
His LTU lab concentrates on neuroscience. “Many brain tumors in the body have regions, a core that died, while the outside is growing. What’s quite satisfying to us and others too is that spheroid models recapitulate that; after they reach a certain size, the limits on glucose and oxygen’s ability to enter the spheroid cause it to have a necrotic core, yet the spheroid still grows because there is sufficient oxygen and glucose on the outside. Our system is excellent for observing these kinds of activity.”
He founded a startup—Nanogaia—to commercialize the technology. An important remaining challenge, he notes, is developing needed IT technology: “Storage has become incredibly cheap; the question is algorithms and software to turn the pretty pictures into meaningful things.”