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Three-dimensional in vitro biomimetic model of neuroblastoma using collagen-based scaffolds

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Neuroblastoma is the most common extracranial solid tumor in children, accounting for 15% of overall pediatric cancer deaths. The native tumor tissue is a complex three-dimensional (3D) microenvironment involving layers of cancerous and non-cancerous cells surrounded by an extracellular matrix (ECM). The ECM provides physical and biological support and contributes to disease progression, patient prognosis, and therapeutic response. This paper describes a protocol for assembling a 3D scaffold-based system to mimic the neuroblastoma microenvironment using neuroblastoma cell lines and collagen-based scaffolds. The scaffolds are supplemented with either nanohydroxyapatite (nHA) or glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), naturally found at high concentrations in the bone and bone marrow, the most common metastatic sites of neuroblastoma. The 3D porous structure of these scaffolds allows neuroblastoma cell attachment, proliferation and migration, and the formation of cell clusters. In this 3D matrix, the cell response to therapeutics is more reflective of the in vivo situation. The scaffold-based culture system can maintain higher cell densities than conventional two-dimensional (2D) cell culture. Therefore, optimization protocols for initial seeding cell numbers are dependent on the desired experimental timeframes. The model is monitored by assessing cell growth via DNA quantification, cell viability via metabolic assays, and cell distribution within the scaffolds via histological staining. This model's applications include the assessment of gene and protein expression profiles as well as cytotoxicity testing using conventional drugs and miRNAs. The 3D culture system allows for the precise manipulation of cell and ECM components, creating an environment more physiologically similar to native tumor tissue. Therefore, this 3D in vitro model will advance the understanding of the disease pathogenesis and improve the correlation between results obtained in vitro, in vivo in animal models, and human subjects.


National Children's Research Centre (NCRC)

Irish Research Council (IRC)

Neuroblastoma UK



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Published Citation

Gallagher C, Murphy C, O'Brien FJ, Piskareva O. Three-dimensional in vitro biomimetic model of neuroblastoma using collagen-based scaffolds. J Vis Exp. 2021;(173): e62627

Publication Date

9 July 2021

PubMed ID



  • Amber (Advanced Material & Bioengineering Research) Centre
  • Anatomy and Regenerative Medicine
  • School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences
  • Tissue Engineering Research Group (TERG)

Research Area

  • Immunity, Infection and Inflammation
  • Cancer
  • Biomaterials and Regenerative Medicine
  • Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences


MyJove Corporation


  • Published Version (Version of Record)