3D Microgels Offer New Potential for Cell Research, the Future of Personalized Medicine

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Stars, diamonds, circles.

Rather than your average bowl of Lucky Charms, these are three-dimensional cell cultures that can be generated by a new digital microfluidics platform from researchers at U of T’s Institute for Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME).

Published this week in Nature Communications, the tool can be used to study cells in cost-efficient, three-dimensional microgels. This may hold the key to personalized medicine applications in the future.

“We already know that the microenvironment can greatly influence cell fate,” saidIrwin A. Eydelnant (IBBME PhD 1T3), recent doctoral graduate from IBBME and first author of the publication. “The important part of this study is that we’ve developed a tool that will allow us to investigate the sensitivity of cells to their 3D environment.”

“Everyone wants to do three-dimensional (3D) cell culture,” explained co-authorAaron Wheeler (IBBME), Professor and Canada Research Chair in Bioanalytical Chemistry at IBBME, the Department of Chemistry, and the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research (DCCBR) at the University of Toronto.

“Cells grown in this manner share much more in common with living systems than the standard two-dimensional (2D) cell culture format.” But more naturalistic, 3D cell cultures are a challenge to grow.

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