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Integr Biol (Camb). 2014 Mar;6(3):324-37. doi: 10.1039/c3ib40194d. Epub 2014 Jan 24.

Interactions between mesenchymal stem cells, adipocytes, and osteoblasts in a 3D tri-culture model of hyperglycemic conditions in the bone marrow microenvironment.

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W.H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30332, USA.


Recent studies have found that uncontrolled diabetes and consequential hyperglycemic conditions can lead to an increased incidence of osteoporosis. Osteoblasts, adipocytes, and mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are all components of the bone marrow microenvironment and thus may have an effect on diabetes-related osteoporosis. However, few studies have investigated the influence of these three cell types on each other, especially in the context of hyperglycemia. Thus, we developed a hydrogel-based 3D culture platform engineered to allow live-cell retrieval in order to investigate the interactions between MSCs, osteoblasts, and adipocytes in mono-, co-, and tri-culture configurations under hyperglycemic conditions for 7 days of culture. Gene expression, histochemical analysis of differentiation markers, and cell viability were measured for all cell types, and MSC-laden hydrogels were degraded to retrieve cells to assess their colony-forming capacity. Multivariate models of gene expression data indicated that primary discrimination was dependent on the neighboring cell type, validating the need for co-culture configurations to study conditions modeling this disease state. MSC viability and clonogenicity were reduced when mono- and co-cultured with osteoblasts at high glucose levels. In contrast, MSCs showed no reduction of viability or clonogenicity when cultured with adipocytes under high glucose conditions, and the adipogenic gene expression indicates that cross-talk between MSCs and adipocytes may occur. Thus, our unique culture platform combined with post-culture multivariate analysis provided a novel insight into cellular interactions within the MSC microenvironment and highlights the necessity of multi-cellular culture systems for further investigation of complex pathologies such as diabetes and osteoporosis.

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