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Tissue Eng Part C Methods. 2016 Jul;22(7):708-15. doi: 10.1089/ten.TEC.2015.0452.

Biofabrication of 3D Alginate-Based Hydrogel for Cancer Research: Comparison of Cell Spreading, Viability, and Adhesion Characteristics of Colorectal HCT116 Tumor Cells.

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1 Experimental Tumor Pathology, Institute of Pathology, Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg , Germany .
2 Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Institute of Biomaterials, Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg , Germany .


Hydrogels are an important class of biomaterials as they could mimic the extracellular matrix (ECM). Among the naturally occurring biopolymers, alginate and gelatin are extensively used for many biomedical applications. For developing biofabrication constructs as three-dimensional (3D) cell culture models, realistic imaging of cell spreading and proliferation inside the hydrogels represents a major challenge. Therefore, we aimed to establish a system that can mimic the structural architecture, composition, and biological functions of the ECM for cancer research approaches. For this, we compared the cell behavior of human colon cancer HCT116 cells in two biofabricated hydrogels as follows: pure alginate and cross-linked alginate-gelatin (ADA-GEL) matrixes. Our data indicate that cells from the ADA-GEL matrix showed highest proliferation and cellular networks through the material. Analyzing the mRNA expression of several integrins of cells cultured inside of the matrix, we showed that mRNA expression of integrin subunits differed based on the cell focal adhesion characteristics. Furthermore, we showed that recultured ADA-GEL immobilized cells do not differ from parental HCT116 cells regarding migration and proliferation capabilities. Comparing adhesion and other phenotypic characteristics of HCT116 tumor cells, we suggest that ADA-GEL hydrogel is a more suitable 3D system than pure alginate and seems to optimally mimic the physiological behavior of the tumor microenvironment. For the first time, we present a functional 3D hydrogel construct for colon cancer cells, which are supporting their physiological cell attachment, spreading, and viability. We strongly believe that it will be applicable as a suitable in vitro 3D tumor model to study different aspects of tumor cell behavior.

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