Real-Time Fluorescence Visualization and Quantitation of Cell Growth and Death in Response to Treatment in 3D Collagen-Based Tumor Model

Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Aug 9;23(16):8837. doi: 10.3390/ijms23168837.


The use of 3D in vitro tumor models has become a common trend in cancer biology studies as well as drug screening and preclinical testing of drug candidates. The transition from 2D to 3D matrix-based cell cultures requires modification of methods for assessing tumor growth. We propose the method for assessing the growth of tumor cells in a collagen hydrogel using macro-scale registration and quantification of the gel epi-fluorescence. The technique does not require gel destruction, can be used for real-time observation of fast (in seconds) cellular responses and demonstrates high agreement with cell counting approaches or measuring total DNA content. The potency of the method was proven in experiments aimed at testing cytotoxic activity of chemotherapeutic drug (cisplatin) and recombinant targeted toxin (DARPin-LoPE) against two different tumor cell lines genetically labelled with fluorescent proteins. Moreover, using fluorescent proteins with sensor properties allows registration of dynamic changes in cells' metabolism, which was shown for the case of sensor of caspase 3 activity.

Keywords: 3D in vitro tumor model; apoptosis; cell growth curves; cisplatin; collagen hydrogel; fluorescence imaging; fluorescent proteins; genetically encoded sensor; recombinant targeted toxin.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cisplatin*
  • Collagen*
  • Fluorescence


  • Collagen
  • Cisplatin