High-throughput 3D spheroid culture and drug testing using a 384 hanging drop array

Analyst. 2011 Feb 7;136(3):473-8. doi: 10.1039/c0an00609b. Epub 2010 Oct 21.


Culture of cells as three-dimensional (3D) aggregates can enhance in vitro tests for basic biological research as well as for therapeutics development. Such 3D culture models, however, are often more complicated, cumbersome, and expensive than two-dimensional (2D) cultures. This paper describes a 384-well format hanging drop culture plate that makes spheroid formation, culture, and subsequent drug testing on the obtained 3D cellular constructs as straightforward to perform and adapt to existing high-throughput screening (HTS) instruments as conventional 2D cultures. Using this platform, we show that drugs with different modes of action produce distinct responses in the physiological 3D cell spheroids compared to conventional 2D cell monolayers. Specifically, the anticancer drug 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) has higher anti-proliferative effects on 2D cultures whereas the hypoxia activated drug commonly referred to as tirapazamine (TPZ) are more effective against 3D cultures. The multiplexed 3D hanging drop culture and testing plate provides an efficient way to obtain biological insights that are often lost in 2D platforms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cell Culture Techniques / instrumentation
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / instrumentation
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods*
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays / instrumentation
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays / methods*
  • Humans
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Spheroids, Cellular / cytology*
  • Spheroids, Cellular / drug effects*
  • Time Factors


  • Antineoplastic Agents