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Biomaterials. 2007 Sep;28(27):4006-16. Epub 2007 Jun 15.

Micropatterns of Matrigel for three-dimensional epithelial cultures.

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Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Three-dimensional (3D) epithelial culture models are widely used to promote a physiologically relevant microenvironment for the study of normal and aberrant epithelial organization. Despite the increased use of these models, their potential as a cell-based screening tool for therapeutics has been hindered by the lack of existing platforms for large-scale 3D cellular studies. Current 3D standard culture does not allow for single spheroid or 'acinus' analysis required for high-throughput systems. Here, we present general strategies for creating bulk micropatterns of Matrigel that can be used as a platform for 3D epithelial culture and cell-based assays at the single acinus level. Both buried and free-standing micropatterns of Matrigel were created using modified soft lithography techniques such as microtransfer molding (microTM) and dry lift-off technique. Surface modification of poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) with oxygen plasma followed by treatment with poly(2-hydroxy-ethylmethacrylate) (poly-HEMA) was sufficient to promote deformation-free release of Matrigel patterns. In addition, a novel dual-layer dry lift-off technique was developed to simultaneously generate patterns of Matrigel and poly-HEMA on a single substrate. We also demonstrate that the micropatterned Matrigel can support 3D culture originating from a single normal human mammary epithelial (MCF-10A) cell or a human breast cancer cell (MDA-MB-231) with comparable phenotypes to standard 3D culture techniques. Culture of normal MCF-10A cells on micropatterned Matrigel resulted in formation of structures with the characteristic apoptosis of centrally located cells and formation of hollow lumens. Moreover, the carcinoma cell line showed their characteristic formation of disorganized invasive cellular clusters, lacking the normal epithelial architecture on micropatterned Matrigel. Hence, micropatterned Matrigel can be used as a 3D epithelial cell-based platform for a wide variety of applications in epithelial and cancer biology, tissue engineering, as well as gene/drug screening technology.

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