Enhanced viability for ex vivo 3d hydrogel cultures of patient-derived xenografts in a perfused microfluidic platform

Lindsey K. Sablatura, Kristin M. Bircsak, Peter Shepherd, Karla Queiroz, Mary C. Farach-Carson, Pamela E. Constantinou, Anthony Saleh, Nora Navone, Daniel A. Harrington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Patient-derived xenografts (PDX), generated when resected patient tumor tissue is engrafted directly into immunocompromised mice, remain biologically stable, thereby preserving molecular, genetic, and histological features, as well as heterogeneity of the original tumor. However, using these models to perform a multitude of experiments, including drug screening, is prohibitive both in terms of cost and time. Three-dimensional (3D) culture systems are widely viewed as platforms in which cancer cells retain their biological integrity through biochemical interactions, morphology, and architecture. Our team has extensive experience culturing PDX cells in vitro using 3D matrices composed of hyaluronic acid (HA). In order to separate mouse fibroblast stromal cells associated with PDXs, we use rotation culture, where stromal cells adhere to the surface of tissue culture-treated plates while dissociated PDX tumor cells float and self-associate into multicellular clusters. Also floating in the supernatant are single, often dead cells, which present a challenge in collecting viable PDX clusters for downstream encapsulation into hydrogels for 3D cell culture. In order to separate these single cells from live cell clusters, we have employed density step gradient centrifugation. The protocol described here allows for the depletion of non-viable single cells from the healthy population of cell clusters that will be used for further in vitro experimentation. In our studies, we incorporate the 3D cultures in microfluidic plates which allow for media perfusion during culture. After assessing the resultant cultures using a fluorescent image-based viability assay of purified versus non-purified cells, our results show that this additional separation step substantially reduced the number of non-viable cells from our cultures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere60872
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number166
StatePublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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