Fabrication of multi-well chips for spheroid cultures and implantable constructs through rapid prototyping techniques

Silvia Lopa, Francesco Piraino, Raymond J. Kemp, Clelia Di Caro, Arianna B. Lovati, Alessia Di Giancamillo, Lorenzo Moroni, Giuseppe M. Peretti, Marco Rasponi, Matteo Moretti*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Three-dimensional (3D) culture models are widely used in basic and translational research. In this study, to generate and culture multiple 3D cell spheroids, we exploited laser ablation and replica molding for the fabrication of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) multi-well chips, which were validated using articular chondrocytes (ACs). Multi-well ACs spheroids were comparable or superior to standard spheroids, as revealed by glycosaminoglycan and type-II collagen deposition. Moreover, the use of our multi-well chips significantly reduced the operation time for cell seeding and medium refresh. Exploiting a similar approach, we used clinical-grade fibrin to generate implantable multi-well constructs allowing for the precise distribution of multiple cell types. Multi-well fibrin constructs were seeded with ACs generating high cell density regions, as shown by histology and cell fluorescent staining. Multi-well constructs were compared to standard constructs with homogeneously distributed ACs. After 7 days in vitro, expression of SOX9, ACAN, COL2A1, and COMP was increased in both constructs, with multi-well constructs expressing significantly higher levels of chondrogenic genes than standard constructs. After 5 weeks in vivo, we found that despite a dramatic size reduction, the cell distribution pattern was maintained and glycosaminoglycan content per wet weight was significantly increased respect to pre-implantation samples. In conclusion, multi-well chips for the generation and culture of multiple cell spheroids can be fabricated by low-cost rapid prototyping techniques. Furthermore, these techniques can be used to generate implantable constructs with defined architecture and controlled cell distribution, allowing for in vitro and in vivo investigation of cell interactions in a 3D environment. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2015;112: 1457-1471.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1457-1471
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015


  • rapid prototyping
  • 3D model
  • cell spheroid
  • implantable scaffold
  • tissue engineering

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