Bioinstructive microparticles for self-assembly of mesenchymal stem Cell-3D tumor spheroids


3D multicellular tumor spheroids (3D-MCTS) that closely mimic in vitro the complex lung tumor micro environment (TME) are highly desirable for screening innovative anti-cancer therapeutics. Despite significant improvements in mimicking lung TME, few models have combined tumor-infiltrating mesenchymal stem cells from bone marrow (hBM-MSCs) with heterotypic 3D tumor spheroid models containing ECM mimetic components. Herein, we engineered hybrid 3D-MCTS that combine, for the first time, A549:fibroblasts:hBM-MSCs in heterotypic tri-culture, with bioinstructive hyaluronan microparticles that act as tumor-ECM mimetics and as cell-anchoring hotspots. The obtained results indicated that 3D microspheres provided proper support for cells to self-assemble into compact 3D microtissues and promoted an increase in CD44 expression, emulating the presence of native-ECM hyaluronan. 3D-MCTS size and sphere-like morphology was reproducible and tri-culture models presented the characteristic solid tumors necrotic core. Mesenchymal stem cells tracking demonstrated that hBM-MSCs migrate to different regions in 3D microtumors mass exhibiting dynamic interactions with cancer cells and stromal fibroblasts, alike in human tumors. Importantly, doxorubicin administration revealed hBM-MSCs effect on cytotoxic responses in 3D tri-culture models and in dual cultures of hBM-MSCs:A549 at 10:1 ratio. Such findings evidence the relevance of including hBM-MSCs in combination with cancer-stromal fibroblasts in 3D in vitro tumor models and the importance to test different cell-to-cell ratios to mimic tumor heterogeneity. In addition, bioinstructive hyaluronan-microparticles were also effective as cell-agglomerating scaffolds and showed potential to be used as an enabling technology for including different ECM components in 3D in vitro models in the future.




Engineering; Materials Science


Ferreira, LP; Gaspar, VM; Mano, JF

nossos autores


The authors would like to acknowledge the support of the European Research Council grant agreement ERC-2014-ADG-669858 for project "ATLAS". The authors also acknowledge the financial support by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) through a Post-doctoral grant (SFRH/BPD/119983/2016, Vitor Gaspar). This work was also developed within the scope of the project CICECO - Aveiro Institute of Materials, POCI-01-0145-FEDER-007679 (FCT Ref. UID/CTM/50011/2013), financed by national funds through the FCT/MEC and when appropriate co-financed by FEDER under the PT2020 Partnership Agreement.

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