Singapore's Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), which celebrates its fifth anniversary this year, has invented a unique user-friendly gel that can liquefy on demand, with the potential to revolutionize three-dimensional (3D) cell culture for medical research.
As reported in Nature Nanotechnology (Y.S. Pek, A. C. A. Wan, A. Shekaran, L. Zhuo and J. Y. Ying, "A Thixotropic Nanocomposite Gel for Three-Dimensional Cell Culture"), IBN's novel gel media has the unique ability to liquefy when it is subjected to a moderate shear force and rapidly resolidifies into a gel within one minute upon removal of the force. This phenomenon of reverting between a gel and a liquid state is known as thixotropy.
IBN's thixotropic gel is synthesized from a nanocomposite of silica and polyethylene glycol (PEG) under room temperature, without special storage conditions. This novel material facilitates the safe and convenient culture of cells in 3D since cells can be easily added to the gel matrix without any chemical processes.
According to IBN Executive Director Jackie Y. Ying, Ph.D., "Cell culture is conventionally performed on a flat surface such as glass slides. It is an essential process in biological and medical research, and is widely used to process cells, synthesize biologics and develop treatments for a large variety of diseases.
"Cell culture within a 3D matrix would better mimic the actual conditions in the body as compared to the conventional 2D cell culture on flat surfaces. 3D cell culture also promises the development of better cell assays for drug screening," Dr. Ying added.
Another key feature of IBN's gel is the ease with which researchers can transfer the cultured cells from the matrix by pipetting the required amount from the liquefied gel.
Unlike conventional cell culture, trypsin is not required to detach the cultured cells from the solid media. As trypsin is an enzyme that is kno
|Contact: Cathy Yarbrough|
Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore