NC State
R. Curvello, V.S. Raghuwanshi and G. Garnier. Engineering nanocellulose-based matrices for 3D cell cultures. In Advances in Pulp and Paper Research, Cambridge 2022, Trans. of the XVIIth Fund. Res. Symp. Cambridge, 2022 (D. Coffin and W. Batchelor, eds), pp 291–305. FRC, Manchester, 2022.


Cell and organoids culture in three-dimensions (3D) gel systems is important from a fundamental aspect for understanding the development and behaviour of body organs, and from a practical perspective for producing cells, tissues and even new organs for bio-medical applications. The cell culture requires a supportive network environment, biological or synthetic, which provides the suitable biological systems (proteins and co-factors), mechanical support (flexible morphology) and chemical composition for cells/organoids to grow, spread and migrate. Current naturally extracted matrices like, Matrigel and collagen, are expensive with poorly defined and variable composition; they are not reliable for common practice 3D organoids culture. To overcome issues with the naturally extracted matrices, researchers have been investigating and developing new synthetic and natural polymer gels as alternatives. Cellulose has emerged as an attractive matrix with strong potential for cell and organ culture in 2D and 3D networks. The inherent natural biocompatibility of cellulose fibres including non toxicity, low cost, and their ability to form flexible gels, provide a compelling alternative to the current limited and expensive animal-based matrices. This review focuses on the recent development of cellulose nano fibres (CNF) based gel matrices for 3D cell and organoids culture. The review highlights how functionalisation of CNF optimizes the gel structure, visco-elastic properties and composition for supporting cell growth, interactions, spreading and migration. The state-of-the-art characterisation methods are discussed to monitor CNF stiffness, strength, morphology and composition, and furthermore, cell culture and their stability in the CNF network. The knowledge gained from this review aims at supporting bioengineers in further developing the potential of CNF gels for different 3D organs culture and tissue engineering applications.

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