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Scientists Build a Better Petri Dish

It helps culture more realistic cells for research, they say

FRIDAY, Oct. 19 (HealthDay News) -- A 3-D petri dish that can grow cells in three dimensions could quickly and cheaply produce more cells for drug development research and tissue transplantation, say the biomedical engineers at Brown University in Providence, R.I., who invented the new dish.

The dish is made from a sugary substance called agarose -- long used in laboratories -- that allows cells to self-assemble naturally and form "microtissues," the scientists explained in an article published in the journal Tissue Engineering.

In conventional petri dishes, cells stick to the bottom and spread out as they multiply. But this is not the way that cells grow in the body, where cells are surrounded by other cells in three dimensions, forming tissues such as skin, muscle and bone.

The new 3-D petri dish has a number of features that allow more normal cell and tissue development. The dish is porous, which allows nutrients and waste to circulate. It's non-adhesive, so cells don't stick to it. Tiny recesses in the bottom of the dish promote the formation of natural cell-to-cell connections, a process that's not possible in conventional petri dishes.

"It's a new technology with a lot of promise to improve biomedical research," Jeffrey Morgan, a professor of medical science and engineering, said in a prepared statement. He conceived and created the new petri dish with a team of students led by Anthony Napolitano, a Ph.D., candidate in the biomedical engineering program.

"This technology is an inexpensive and easy-to-use alternative to current 3-D cell culture methods. It's like the next generation," Napolitano said.

More information

The Centre of the Cell in the United Kingdom has more about growing cells in the laboratory.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Brown University, news release, October 2007

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