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Biomicrofluidics. 2011 Jun;5(2):22205. doi: 10.1063/1.3576905. Epub 2011 Jun 29.

Hepatocyte spheroid arrays inside microwells connected with microchannels.


Spheroid culture is a preferable cell culture approach for some cell types, including hepatocytes, as this type of culture often allows maintenance of organ-specific functions. In this study, we describe a spheroid microarray chip (SM chip) that allows stable immobilization of hepatocyte spheroids in microwells and that can be used to evaluate drug metabolism with high efficiency. The SM chip consists of 300-μm-diameter cylindrical wells with chemically modified bottom faces that form a 100-μm-diameter cell adhesion region surrounded by a nonadhesion region. Primary hepatocytes seeded onto this chip spontaneously formed spheroids of uniform diameter on the cell adhesion region in each microwell and these could be used for cytochrome P-450 fluorescence assays. A row of microwells could also be connected to a microchannel for simultaneous detection of different cytochrome P-450 enzyme activities on a single chip. The miniaturized features of this SM chip reduce the numbers of cells and the amounts of reagents required for assays. The detection of four cytochrome P-450 enzyme activities was demonstrated following induction by 3-methylcholantlene, with a sensitivity significantly higher than that in conventional monolayer culture. This microfabricated chip could therefore serve as a novel culture platform for various cell-based assays, including those used in drug screening, basic biological studies, and tissue engineering applications.

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