Affordable Oxygen Microscopy-Assisted Biofabrication of Multicellular Spheroids

Irina A. Okkelman, Chris Vercruysse, Alina V. Kondrashina, Sergey M. Borisov, Ruslan I. Dmitriev*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Multicellular spheroids are important tools for studying tissue and cancer physiology in 3D and are frequently used in tissue engineering as tissue assembling units for biofabrication. While the main power of the spheroid model is in mimicking physical-chemical gradients at the tissue microscale, the real physiological environment (including dynamics of metabolic activity, oxygenation, cell death, and proliferation) inside the spheroids is generally ignored. At the same time, the effects of the growth medium composition and the formation method on the resulting spheroid phenotype are well documented. Thus, characterization and standardization of spheroid phenotype are required to ensure the reproducibility and transparency of the research results. The analysis of average spheroid oxygenation and the value of O2 gradients in three dimensions (3D) can be a simple and universal way for spheroid phenotype characterization, pointing at their metabolic activity, overall viability, and potential to recapitulate in vivo tissue microenvironment. The visualization of 3D oxygenation can be easily combined with multiparametric analysis of additional physiological parameters (such as cell death, proliferation, and cell composition) and applied for continuous oxygenation monitoring and/or end-point measurements. The loading of the O2 probe is performed during the stage of spheroid formation and is compatible with various protocols of spheroid generation. The protocol includes a high-throughput method of spheroid generation with introduced red and near-infrared emitting ratiometric fluorescent O2 nanosensors and the description of multi-parameter assessment of spheroid oxygenation and cell death before and after bioprinting. The experimental examples show comparative O2 gradients analysis in homo-and hetero-cellular spheroids as well as spheroid-based bioprinted constructs. The protocol is compatible with a conventional fluorescence microscope having multiple fluorescence filters and a light-emitting diode as a light source.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere63403
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number182
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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