Tiny 3D labs to replace petri dishes for growing human tissue

Engineering floating liquid marbles for three-dimensional cell cultures

A liquid marble is a tiny water droplet, the size of a pinhead, coated with non-stick powder. The liquid marble acts like a miniature laboratory: cells can be grown inside it.

Chin Hong Ooi (Griffith University) and colleagues are the first in the world to grow human nerve cells in a liquid marble. This technique could be used to treat patients with spinal cord injuries, because cells grown in a liquid marble more closely resemble those growing in the human body.

Cell interactions are greatly affected by their surrounding structures, so cells grown on a conventional petri dish tend to form flat structures, whereas cells grown in a liquid marble can form three-dimensional, spherical structures.

Their work could help researchers observe and better understand cell growth and interaction in a three-dimensional environment.

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