Liquid marbles (LMs) have recently shown a great promise as microbioreactors to construct self-supported aqueous compartments for chemical and biological reactions. However, the evaporation of the inner aqueous liquid core has limited their application, especially in studying cellular functions. Hydrogels are promising scaffolds that provide a spatial environment suitable for three-dimensional cell culture. Here, we describe the fabrication of redox-responsive hydrogel marbles (HMs) as a three-dimensional cell culture platform. The HMs are prepared by introducing an aqueous mixture of a tetra-thiolated polyethylene glycol (PEG) derivative, thiolated gelatin (Gela-SH), horseradish peroxidase, a small phenolic compound, and human hepatocellular carcinoma cells (HepG2) to the inner aqueous phase of LMs. Eventually, HepG2 cells are encapsulated in the HMs then immersed in culture media, where they proliferate and form cellular spheroids. Experimental results show that the Gela-SH concentration strongly influences the physicochemical and microstructure properties of the HMs. After 6 days in culture, the spheroids were recovered from the HMs by degrading the scaffold, and examination showed that they had reached up to about 180 μm in diameter depending on the Gela-SH concentration, compared with 60 μm in conventional HMs without Gela-SH. After long-term culture (over 12 days), the liver-specific functions (secretion of albumin and urea) and DNA contents of the spheroids cultured in the HMs were elevated compared with those cultured in LMs. These results suggest that the developed HMs can be useful in designing a variety of microbioreactors for tissue engineering applications.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology