Biotech Updates

Alginate Gel-Based 3D Cell Culture Developed for Cancer Stem Cell Research

April 30, 2014

One of the most recent models of tumorigenesis in cancer is the cancer stem cell (CSC) model. CSCs play an important role in tumor initiation, progression and metastasis. They are also responsible for the high therapeutic failure rates against cancer. Although widely used in tumor studies, the two-dimensional (2D) cell culture has limitations in maintaining CSCs in vitro. Therefore, it is necessary to develop an efficient culture system for further research on CSCs.

The three-dimensional (3D) cell culture has the ability to better recapitulate the in vivo microenvironment than 2D cell culture and has been proven to successfully improve CSC properties. Hence, it is a leading candidate as the new culture system for CSCs. In the study, the three-dimensional (3D) culture system based on alginate gel (ALG) beads was evaluated. Two cell lines derived from different histologic origins were encapsulated in ALG beads and the expansion of CSCs was investigated.

The proportion of cells with CSC-like phenotypes increased significantly in ALG beads compared to 2D culture. CSCs cultured in ALG beads also had increased metastasis ability and greater expression levels of CSC-related genes. It was also found that hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) that occurred in ALG beads were responsible for inducing the increase in CSC proportion. Therefore, ALG bead was an efficient culture system for CSC enrichment, which might provide a useful platform for research and development of new anti-cancer therapies.