Direct Measurements of Oxygen Gradients in Spheroid Culture System Using Electron Parametric Resonance Oximetry.
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Advanced in vitro culture from tissues of different origin includes three-dimensional (3D) organoid micro structures that may mimic conditions in vivo. One example of simple 3D culture is spheroids; ball shaped structures typically used as liver and tumour models. Oxygen is critically important in physiological processes, but is difficult to quantify in 3D culture: and the question arises, how small does a spheroid have to be to have minimal micro-environment formation? This question is of particular importance in the growing field of 3D based models for toxicological assessment. Here, we describe a simple non-invasive approach modified for the quantitative measurement and subsequent evaluation of oxygen gradients in spheroids developed from a non-malignant fish cell line (i.e. RTG-2 cells) using Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) oximetry. Sonication of the paramagnetic probe Lithium phthalocyanine (LiPc) allows for incorporation of probe particulates into spheroid during its formation. Spectra signal strength after incorporation of probe into spheroid indicated that a volume of 20 μl of probe (stock solution: 0.10 mg/mL) is sufficient to provide a strong spectra across a range of spheroid sizes. The addition of non-toxic probes (that do not produce or consume oxygen) report on oxygen diffusion throughout the spheroid as a function of size. We provide evidence supporting the use of this model over a range of initial cell seeding densities and spheroid sizes with the production of oxygen distribution as a function of these parameters. In our spheroid model, lower cell seeding densities (∼2,500 cells/spheroid) and absolute size (118±32 μm) allow control of factors such as pre-existing stresses (e.g. ∼ 2% normoxic/hypoxic interface) for more accurate measurement of treatment response. The applied methodology provides an elegant, widely applicable approach to directly characterize spheroid (and other organoid) cultures in biomedical and toxicological research.
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