Agarose, a biopolymer and hydrogel, is a naturally occurring polysaccharide, extracted from certain types of red seaweed. It has the benefits of excellent biocompatibility, thermo-reversible gel behavior, non-toxicity and low-cost, all of which make it a popular material for scientific applications .
Agarose droplets, when solidified into beads, provide a spherical scaffold and allow the diffusion of nutrients and gases. They therefore display many similarities to the native physiological environment of living cells . For this reason, cells encapsulated in agarose can be grown for extended periods of time within these three-dimensional microenvironments.
Agarose’s spherical scaffold structure and ability to allow the diffusion of nutrients and gases make it an ideal model system for mammalian cell culture, given its many similarities to the native physiological environment of living cells (4). Single cells encapsulated in agarose can, therefore, be grown for extended periods of time within these individual three-dimensional microenvironments and used in various research including single cell experiments.
Figure 1: Schematic of cell-containing agarose droplet generation. Flow focussing on the Nadia Chip allows droplets of agarose to be formed at high throughput. This technique can be used to encase cells in the spherical scaffold provided by the agarose once it had hardened.
The Nadia Innovate allows users to encapsulate single cells into agarose spheres for the purpose of 3D culture, among others. More than one cell can also be encapsulated into one droplet to enable the study of cell-cell interactions. Download our application note for more details.
Figure 2: Two living, differentially-stained, cells were encapsulated together in an agarose bead on the Dolomite Bio Nadia Innovate platform (in blue: Hoechst-stained HEK cell, in green: Calcein-stained 3T3 cell).