Three-dimensional tissue culture based on magnetic cell levitation

Nat Nanotechnol. 2010 Apr;5(4):291-6. doi: 10.1038/nnano.2010.23. Epub 2010 Mar 14.


Cell culture is an essential tool in drug discovery, tissue engineering and stem cell research. Conventional tissue culture produces two-dimensional cell growth with gene expression, signalling and morphology that can be different from those found in vivo, and this compromises its clinical relevance. Here, we report a three-dimensional tissue culture based on magnetic levitation of cells in the presence of a hydrogel consisting of gold, magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles and filamentous bacteriophage. By spatially controlling the magnetic field, the geometry of the cell mass can be manipulated, and multicellular clustering of different cell types in co-culture can be achieved. Magnetically levitated human glioblastoma cells showed similar protein expression profiles to those observed in human tumour xenografts. Taken together, these results indicate that levitated three-dimensional culture with magnetized phage-based hydrogels more closely recapitulates in vivo protein expression and may be more feasible for long-term multicellular studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Astrocytes
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Ferrosoferric Oxide / chemistry*
  • Glioblastoma
  • Gold / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Hydrogel, Polyethylene Glycol Dimethacrylate / chemistry*
  • Inovirus / chemistry
  • Magnetics / methods*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Tissue Culture Techniques / methods*


  • Proteins
  • Hydrogel, Polyethylene Glycol Dimethacrylate
  • Gold
  • Ferrosoferric Oxide