I am a final year PhD candidate at Texas Tech University of Health Sciences (TTUHSC) investigating blood-brain barrier (BBB) physiology in a rare neurodevelopmental disorder, GLUT-1 Deficiency Syndrome (GLUT1DS), using human-induced pluripotent stem cells. I was excited to be the recipient of an SOT Supplemental Training for Education Program (STEP) award.
Using the funds from the STEP award, I had the opportunity to complete a three-day, hands-on workshop on 3D cell culture at Bio-Trac. The course was significant to my advancement as a toxicologist because of the growing acceptance of alternative methods in toxicology. Even though animal models have been of great aid in understanding disease processes and toxicological screening, there is still a need for alternative methods and the development of human-relevant models that can provide more predictive and physiologically relevant results.
The application of 2D disease modeling suffers from caveats like less physiological relevance and limited cell-to-cell interactions. In order to mimic human brain complexity, 3D models have been proposed as a more advanced alternative. Currently, the Graduate Program of Pharmaceutical Sciences at TTUHSC does not have the necessary equipment, resources, and trained staff to support 3D culture experiments; therefore, I participated in the external workshop to further expand my skills and expertise in 3D in vitro disease modeling.
I selected the Bio-Trac 3D workshop because it was based on theoretical and laboratory-based 3D cell culture concepts and applications, particularly in the context of large-scale drug screening and disease modeling. The proposed research activity, 3D cell culturing, provided me with hands-on training in 3D cell culture techniques and the development of high-throughput assays that can be used in drug testing. During the workshop, I learned how to create and use 3D cell culture models to study complex biological processes, screening compounds for toxicity testing, and disease modeling. In this workshop, emphasis was placed on setting up primary human hepatocyte spheroid and high-throughput gut epithelium-on-a-chip cultures, visualizing their formation and growth, and performing downstream assays. The workshop was taught by eminent researchers from industry and governmental organizations, including Dr. Kristin Birscak (Principal Scientist at Mimetas), Dr. Hayley Bachman (Product Specialist at Lonza), and Dr. Helena Hogberg (Deputy Director of NICEATM, NIEHS).
I am grateful to the STEP Award Committee members for giving me an opportunity to attend the workshop and learn more about 3D cell culture techniques.
Editor’s Note: All SOT Student members are eligible for the STEP award, which can be used to pursue opportunities like the course described in this blog. The next STEP application deadline is May 15, 2024.