Thermosensitive and Conductive Hybrid Polymer for Real-Time Monitoring of Spheroid Growth and Drug Responses

Zuan Tao Lin, Jianhua Gu, Huie Wang, Albon Wu, Jingying Sun, Shuo Chen, Yaxi Li, Yifei Kong, Mei X. Wu, Tianfu Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Three-dimensional (3D) cell culture based on polymer scaffold provides a promising tool to mimic a physiological microenvironment for drug testing; however, the next-generation cell activity monitoring technology for 3D cell culture is still challenging. Conventionally, drug efficacy evaluation and cell growth heavily rely on cell staining assays, using optical devices or flow cytometry. Here, we report a dual-function polymer scaffold (DFPS) composed of thermosensitive, silver flake- and gold nanoparticle-decorated polymers, enabling conductance change upon cell proliferation or death for in situ cell activity monitoring and drug screening. The cell activity can be quantitatively monitored via measuring the conductance change induced by polymeric network swelling or shrinkage. This novel dual-function system (1) provides a 3D microenvironment to enable the formation and growth of tumor spheroid in vitro and streamlines the harvesting of tumor spheroids through the thermosensitive scaffold and (2) offers a simple and direct quantitative method to monitor 3D cell culture in situ for drug responses. As a proof of concept, we demonstrated that a breast cancer stem cell line MDA-MB-436 was able to form cell spheroids in the scaffold, and the conductance change of the sensor exhibited a linear relationship with cell concentration. To examine its potential in drug screening, cancer spheroids in the cell sensor were treated with paclitaxel (PTX) and docetaxel (DTX), and predicted quantitative evaluation of the cytotoxic effect of drugs was established. Our results indicated that this cell sensing system may hold promising potential in expanding into an array device for high-throughput drug screening.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2147-2157
Number of pages11
JournalACS Sensors
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 25 2021


  • 3D cell culture
  • breast cancer
  • cell sensor
  • drug screening
  • thermosensitive polymer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Instrumentation
  • Process Chemistry and Technology
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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