Liquid marbles as bioreactors for the study of three-dimensional cell interactions

  • Raja K. Vadivelu
  • Harshad Kamble
  • Ahmed Munaz
  • Nam-Trung Nguyen


Liquid marble as a bioreactor platform for cell-based studies has received significant attention, especially for developing 3D cell-based assays. This platform is particularly suitable for 3D in-vitro modeling of cell-cell interactions. For the first time, we demonstrated the interaction of olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) with nerve debris and meningeal fibroblast using liquid marbles. As the transplantation of OECs can be used for repairing nerve injury, degenerating cell debris within the transplantation site can adversely affect the survival of transplanted OECs. In this paper, we used liquid marbles to mimic the hostile 3D environment to analyze the functional behavior of the cells and to form the basis for cell-based therapy. We show that OECs interact with debris and enhanced cellular aggregation to form a larger 3D spheroidal tissue. However, these spheroids indicated limitation in biological functions such as the inability of cells within the spheroids to migrate out and adherence to neighboring tissue by fusion. The coalescence of two liquid marbles allows for analyzing the interaction between two distinct cell types and their respective environment. We created a microenvironment consisting of 3D fibroblast spheroids and nerve debris and let it interact with OECs. We found that OECs initiate adherence with nerve debris in this 3D environment. The results suggest that liquid marbles are ideal for developing bioassays that could substantially contribute to therapeutic applications. Especially, insights for improving the survival and adherence of transplanted cells.


Liquid marble Bioreactor Spinal cord injury Post-injury model Post-transplantation model Digital microfluidics 3D cell interaction 



We acknowledge the funding support of the Australian Research Council for the discovery grant DP170100277. We thank the members of Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery, especially to Dr. James St. Johns and his group for providing the cell lines and cell culture facilities.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Natural Sciences, Nathan CampusGriffith UniversityBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.QLD Micro- and Nanotechnology Centre, Nathan CampusGriffith UniversityBrisbaneAustralia

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