Novel 3D cell culture model at our SANTHE lead institute

Wednesday, 7 February, 2018

Dr Liku Tezera, University of Southampton, UK.

Mohamed Ahmed, SANTHE PhD trainee, Africa Health Research Institute, Durban, South Africa.

Tezera et al. eLife 2017.

Earlier this month, Dr Liku Tezera of the University of Southampton, UK, visited the Leslie Laboratory at the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) as part of an ongoing collaboration to establish a 3D cell culture model for tuberculosis (TB) at AHRI. AHRI is SANTHE’s lead institute based in Durban, South Africa.

Dr Tezera has been the primary investigator on the project developing the model for the past several years within the research group of Professor Paul Elkington. SANTHE PhD trainee, Mohamed Ahmed, will take the lead working on the model in the Leslie Laboratory. He says, “I visited the UK last year in February and December to be trained in using the model and I am glad to welcome Dr Tezera to Durban. This project is very interesting since it presents a new way of studying TB while also offering me a great experience as an emerging scientist.”

On a tour of AHRI, Tezera was immediately struck by the available laboratory equipment and facilities. “It is very impressive to see such an incredible research infrastructure here in Durban. With these facilities at our disposal I am confident we will make this collaboration a success,” he remarked.

The 3D model consists of tiny spheres containing infected immune cells and collagen, a prominent component of the extracellular matrix of the lung tissue. “We know the extracellular matrix is a critical regulator of cell biology and inclusion of collagen in the microspheres significantly improves cell survival,” said Tezera. The microspheres are generated by a machine called a bioelectrosprayer or cell encapsulator which is currently set up in one of the BSL-3 labs. “The major advantages of this model as opposed to other 3D culture models are two-fold” says Ahmed. “Firstly, the flexibility of the system allows us to vary culture conditions such as cell composition inside the spheres as well as media composition. Secondly, cells can be recovered from the spheres and analysed.”