Scaffold-free generation of uniform adipose spheroids for metabolism research and drug discovery

Aloysius J. Klingelhutz, Francoise A. Gourronc, Anna Chaly, David A. Wadkins, Anthony J. Burand, Kathleen R. Markan, Sharon O. Idiga, Meng Wu, Matthew J. Potthoff, James A. Ankrum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Adipose tissue dysfunction is critical to the development of type II diabetes and other metabolic diseases. While monolayer cell culture has been useful for studying fat biology, 2D culture often does not reflect the complexity of fat tissue. Animal models are also problematic in that they are expensive, time consuming, and may not completely recapitulate human biology because of species variation. To address these problems, we have developed a scaffold-free method to generate 3D adipose spheroids from primary or immortal human or mouse pre-adipocytes. Pre-adipocytes self-organize into spheroids in hanging drops and upon transfer to low attachment plates, can be maintained in long-term cultures. Upon exposure to differentiation cues, the cells mature into adipocytes, accumulating large lipid droplets that expand with time. The 3D spheroids express and secrete higher levels of adiponectin compared to 2D culture and respond to stress, either culture-related or toxin-associated, by secreting pro-inflammatory adipokines. In addition, 3D spheroids derived from brown adipose tissue (BAT) retain expression of BAT markers better than 2D cultures derived from the same tissue. Thus, this model can be used to study both the maturation of pre-adipocytes or the function of mature adipocytes in a 3D culture environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number523
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018


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