<figcaption> Credit: Trevigen</figcaption>
Credit: Trevigen

Reconstituted basement membrane extract (BME)

Who: BD (Matrigel), Trevigen (Cultrex).

Uses and Perks: Supports the growth and differentiation of cells and tissues. Recapitulates the morphology and viscoelasticity of the ECM. Can be remodeled by cells

Drawbacks: Expensive, composition is variable.

How much: About $200 for 10 ml. (Brugge uses 40 ml per well of an 8 well chamber slide.)

<figcaption> Credit: BD</figcaption>
Credit: BD

Interstitial matrix components such as collagen, fibrinogen, fibrin, etc.

Who: Millipore, BD, Sigma, and other suppliers.

Uses and Perks: Frequently used to study migration and invasion. Can be remodeled by cells. Often used in combination with each other, or "spiked" into other matrices.

Drawbacks: Not always interchangeable. For example, even among collagen 1, glycosylation (and solubility) varies by source. Properties differ between native and denatured proteins.

How much: About $130 for 100 mg of rat tail-derived collagen 1.

<figcaption> Credit: Glycosan and X. Wen /Clemson University/Medical University of South Carolina</figcaption>
Credit: Glycosan and X. Wen /Clemson University/Medical University...

(Semi-)synthetic hydrogels.

Who: BD (PuraMatrix Peptide Hydrogel), Glycosan (Extracel, HyLink)

Uses and Perks: Fully characterized alternatives to BME. Also used as a scaffold for tissue growth and repair. Often polymerized in combination with bioactive peptides.

Drawbacks: Shows some bioactivity with certain cells. Generally cannot be remodeled, but are biodegradable.

How much: $225 for 12.5 ml of Extracel.

Other options:

Researchers have made 3D cell culture and tissue scaffolding from biological materials ranging from silk to mollusk, as well as from algae extracts. Similarly, polymers, PEG, calcium phosphate, nanofibers, and other constructs have been created, or drafted into use. Many matrices are available as ready-made inserts, coated onto plates or filters, and as parts of kits.

Ready-made examples:

AlgiMatrix 3D Culture System (Invitrogen), derived from brown seaweed, comes as sponges in 96-well plates ($170/plate); InsertTM-PCL (3D Biotek), a biodegradable polycaprolactone (polyester) scaffold ( $75/ set of three 12-well plate inserts).

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