2020 Volume 43 Issue 8 Pages 1220-1225
The multicellular spheroid three-dimensional cell culture system can be used as a formulation for cell-based therapy. However, the viability and functions of the cells in the core region of the spheroid tend to decrease because of limited oxygen supply. In this study, we incorporated gelatin microspheres (GMS) into HepG2 human hepatocyte spheroids to allow oxygen to reach the spheroid core. GMS with an approximate diameter of 37 µm were fabricated by water-in-oil emulsification followed by freeze drying. GMS-containing HepG2 spheroids (GMS/HepG2 spheroids) were prepared by incubation of the cells with GMS at various mixing ratios in agarose gel-based microwells. Increasing the GMS ratio increased the diameter of the spheroids, and few spheroids formed with excess GMS. HepG2 cells in the GMS/HepG2 spheroids were more oxygenated than those in the GMS-free spheroids. GMS incorporation increased the viability of HepG2 cells in the spheroids and increased the CYP1A1 activity of the cells to metabolize 7-ethoxyresorufin, although mRNA expression of the CYP1A1 gene was hardly affected by GMS incorporation. These results indicate that incorporating GMS into HepG2 spheroids improves the hypoxic microenvironment in the spheroids and increases cell viability and CYP1A1 metabolic activity.