Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) hold potential in the field of tissue engineering given their capacity for both limitless self-renewal and differentiation to any adult cell type. However, several limitations, including the ability to expand undifferentiated cells and efficiently direct differentiation at scales needed for commercial cell production, prevent realizing the potential of hESCs in tissue engineering. Numerous studies have illustrated that 3-D culture systems provide microenvironmental cues that affect hESC pluripotency and differentiation fates, but little is known about how 3-D culture affects cell expansion. Here we have used a 3-D microwell array to model the differences in hESC growth kinetics and metabolism in 2-D vs. 3-D cultures. Our results demonstrated that 3-D microwell culture reduced hESC size and proliferative capacity, and impacted cell cycle dynamics, lengthening the G1 phase and shortening the G2/M phase of the cell cycle. However, glucose and lactate metabolism were similar in 2-D and 3-D cultures. Elucidating the effects of 3-D culture on growth and metabolism of hESCs may facilitate efforts for developing integrated, scalable cell expansion and differentiation processes with these cells.
This article is published online in Biotechnology and Applied Biochemistry and is free to access.