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Naked Liquid Marbles: A Robust Three-Dimensional Low-Volume Cell-Culturing System

Chen, Mo; Shah, Megha P.; Shelper, Todd B.; Nazareth, Lynn; Barker, Matthew; Tello Velasquez, Johana; Ekberg, Jenny A. K.; Vial, Marie-Laure; St John, James A.

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March 13, 2019



Three-dimensional (3D) multicellular structures allow cells to behave and interact with each other in a manner that mimics the in vivo environment. In recent years, many 3D cell culture methods have been developed with the goal of producing the most in vivo-like structures possible. Whilst strongly preferable to conventional cell culture, these approaches are often poorly reproducible, time-consuming, expensive, and labor-intensive and require specialized equipment. Here, we describe a novel 3D culture platform, which we have termed the naked liquid marble (NLM). Cells are cultured in a liquid drop (the NLM) in superhydrophobic-coated plates, which causes the cells to naturally form 3D structures. Inside the NLMs, cells are free to interact with each other, forming multiple 3D spheroids that are uniform in size and shape in less than 24 h. We showed that this system is highly reproducible, suitable for cell coculture, compound screening, and also compatible with laboratory automation systems. The low cost of production, small volume of each NLM, and production via automated liquid handling make this 3D cell-culturing system particularly suitable for high-throughput screening assays such as drug testing as well as numerous other cell-based research applications.

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