3D culture enables observation of cell behavior

HEIDELBERG, GERMANY -- Scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) grow cells as cysts in three-dimensional matrices to create more life-like conditions. EMBL's newly designed Single Plane Illumination Microscope enabled Emmanuel Reynaud to image these human kidney cysts. The cysts -- sacs with a liquid filled lumen surrounded by a single layer of cells -- are magnified 400 times. Images of 3D cultures show cell behavior, shapes, and arrangements as they occur in the body.

HEIDELBERG, GERMANY -- Emmanuel Reynaud of Ernst Stelzer's group at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), created this image of a human kidney cyst using a widefield microscope. The cyst -- a sac with a liquid-filled lumen surrounded by a single layer of cells -- is magnified 400 times. It consists of 50 cells and has a diameter of 350 micrometers. The nuclei are stained with blue and microtubules and actin filaments, both components of the cell skeleton, in green, and red respectively.

Scientists at EMBL grow cells as cysts in three-dimensional matrices to study them using a newly designed microscope, the Single Plane Illumination Microscope. Three-dimensional spheres create more life-like conditions for the cells than two-dimensional layers on flat glass slides. Cells are social creatures. They communicate with their neighbors, monitor their environment and adapt their behavior accordingly. In flat cultures they are deprived of much of this communication. Microscope images of 3D cultures are more representative of the natural environment and show cell behaviour, shapes and arrangements as they really occur in the body.

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European Molecular Biology Laboratory

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