Jammed microgel growth medium prepared by flash-solidification of agarose for 3D cell culture and 3D bioprinting

Biomed Mater. 2023 May 18;18(4). doi: 10.1088/1748-605X/acd315.


Although cells cultured in three-dimensional (3D) platforms are proven to be beneficial for studying cellular behavior in settings similar to their physiological state, due to the ease, convenience, and accessibility, traditional 2D culturing approaches are widely adopted. Jammed microgels are a promising class of biomaterials extensively suited for 3D cell culture, tissue bioengineering, and 3D bioprinting. However, existing protocols for fabricating such microgels either involve complex synthesis steps, long preparation times, or polyelectrolyte hydrogel formulations that sequester ionic elements from the cell growth media. Hence, there is an unmet need for a broadly biocompatible, high-throughput, and easily accessible manufacturing process. We address these demands by introducing a rapid, high-throughput, and remarkably straightforward method to synthesize jammed microgels composed of flash-solidified agarose granules directly prepared in a culture medium of choice. Our jammed growth media are optically transparent, porous, yield stress materials with tunable stiffness and self-healing properties, which makes them ideal for 3D cell culture as well as 3D bioprinting. The charge-neutral and inert nature of agarose make them suitable for culturing various cell types and species, the specific growth media for which do not alter the chemistry of the manufacturing process. Unlike several existing 3D platforms, these microgels are readily compatible with standard techniques such as absorbance-based growth assays, antibiotic selection, RNA extraction, and live cell encapsulation. In effect, we present a versatile, highly accessible, inexpensive, and easily adoptable biomaterial for 3D cell culture and 3D bioprinting. We envision their widespread application not just in routine laboratory settings but also in designing multicellular tissue mimics and dynamic co-culture models of physiological niches.

Keywords: 3D cell growth medium; bioprinting; microgel; porous medium.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biocompatible Materials / chemistry
  • Bioprinting* / methods
  • Cell Culture Techniques, Three Dimensional
  • Culture Media
  • Hydrogels / chemistry
  • Microgels*
  • Printing, Three-Dimensional
  • Sepharose
  • Tissue Engineering / methods
  • Tissue Scaffolds / chemistry


  • Microgels
  • Sepharose
  • Hydrogels
  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Culture Media