Gelatin methacrylate hydrogels culture model for glioblastoma cells enriches for mesenchymal-like state and models interactions with immune cells.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Sci Rep


washington; seattle; swedish neuroscience


Glioblastoma is the most lethal primary malignant brain tumor in adults. Simplified two-dimensional (2D) cell culture and neurospheres in vitro models fail to recapitulate the complexity of the tumor microenvironment, limiting its ability to predict therapeutic response. Three-dimensional (3D) scaffold-based models have emerged as a promising alternative for addressing these concerns. One such 3D system is gelatin methacrylate (GelMA) hydrogels, and we aimed to understand the suitability of using this system to mimic treatment-resistant glioblastoma cells that reside in specific niches. We characterized the phenotype of patient-derived glioma cells cultured in GelMA hydrogels (3D-GMH) for their tumorigenic properties using invasion and chemoresponse assays. In addition, we used integrated single-cell and spatial transcriptome analysis to compare cells cultured in 3D-GMH to neoplastic cells in vivo. Finally, we assessed tumor-immune cell interactions with a macrophage infiltration assay and a cytokine array. We show that the 3D-GMH system enriches treatment-resistant mesenchymal cells that are not represented in neurosphere cultures. Cells cultured in 3D-GMH resemble a mesenchymal-like cellular phenotype found in perivascular and hypoxic regions and recruit macrophages by secreting cytokines, a hallmark of the mesenchymal phenotype. Our 3D-GMH model effectively mimics the phenotype of glioma cells that are found in the perivascular and hypoxic niches of the glioblastoma core in situ, in contrast to the neurosphere cultures that enrich cells of the infiltrative edge of the tumor. This contrast highlights the need for due diligence in selecting an appropriate model when designing a study's objectives.

Clinical Institute

Neurosciences (Brain & Spine)

Clinical Institute