Microfluidic fabrication of core-shell microcapsules carrying human pluripotent stem cell spheroids

Kihak Gwon, Hye Jin Hong, Alan M. Gonzalez-Suarez, Gulnaz Stybayeva, Alexander Revzin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Three-dimensional (3D) or spheroid cultures of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) offer the benefits of improved differentiation outcomes and scalability. In this paper, we describe a strategy for the robust and reproducible formation of hPSC spheroids where a co-axial flow focusing device is utilized to entrap hPSCs inside core-shell microcapsules. The core solution contained single cell suspension of hPSCs and was made viscous by the incorporation of high molecular weight poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) and density gradient media. The shell stream comprised of PEG-4 arm-maleimide or PEG-4-Mal and flowed alongside the core stream toward two consecutive oil junctions. Droplet formation occurred at the first oil junction with shell solution wrapping itself around the core. Chemical crosslinking of the shell occurred at the second oil junction by introducing a di-thiol crosslinker (1,4-dithiothreitol or DTT) to these droplets. The crosslinker reacts with maleimide functional groups via click chemistry, resulting in the formation of a hydrogel shell around the microcapsules. Our encapsulation technology produced 400 µm diameter capsules at a rate of 10 capsules per second. The resultant capsules had a hydrogel shell and an aqueous core that allowed single cells to rapidly assemble into aggregates and form spheroids. The process of encapsulation did not adversely affect the viability of hPSCs, with >95% viability observed 3 days post-encapsulation. For comparison, hPSCs encapsulated in solid gel microparticles (without an aqueous core) did not form spheroids and had <50% viability 3 days after encapsulation. Spheroid formation of hPSCs inside core-shell microcapsules occurred within 48 h after encapsulation, with the spheroid diameter being a function of cell inoculation density. Overall, the microfluidic encapsulation technology described in this protocol was well-suited for hPSCs encapsulation and spheroid formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere62944
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number176
StatePublished - Oct 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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