Better Biology Drives HCS Advances

Better Biology Drives HCS Advances

April 22, 2018 – High-content systems for screening, analysis, and imaging are powerful tools for life science research. These systems are typically designed for rapid data acquisition and image capture. In combination with new, more sophisticated assay types, their use in drug screening, toxicity testing, and disease modeling is rapidly expanding.

3D cell models have become a disruptive force in high-content screening technology. Instrument manufacturers are scrambling to upgrade their products to make the most of the enhanced structural and functional detail available in 3D cell cultures and organoids.

StemoniX is a life science company built on nano- and micro-manufacturing techniques from the semiconductor industry. It manufactures assay-ready, 2D and 3D plates for high-content screening based on the company’s engineering values of consistency and accuracy. “I’d say that one of the things that we’ve brought to the industry with our assay-ready plates is this idea of accurate cell structures,” explains Ping Yeh, StemoniX co-founder. According to Yeh, accurate cell structures modeled in three dimensions can produce a more biologically relevant model.

For example, Stemonix’ microHeart product uses cells formed into microfibers, similar to cells in their natural environment. That offers the ability to study the alignment of fibers and structures such as sarcomeres that are found in cells in the human body. “We’re encouraging cells in culture to interact with each other in unique and more physiological ways,” adds Yeh. In addition to their use in studying cellular structure, the platform may be used to identify markers of functionality as well as for drug toxicity investigations and visualization of electrochemical cellular processes.

One advantage of high-content screening with a product such as StemoniX’ assay-ready plates that more accurately model cellular biology is the ability to connect assay results with functionality. For example, according to Yeh, in gene expression analysis, high-content screening can provide confirming data for cell biology. “It opens a whole new world of possibilities for drug discovery. You can have a more empirical or experimental approach as opposed to one complicated by the behavior of animals.”

High-content screens using StemoniX’ platform can process dozens of plates in a single screen, all from the same lot of cells, offering consistency of results. One recent application of StemoniX technology is a study by the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases evaluating the microBrain Assay Ready product in studies of infectivity with four viruses: Eastern equine encephalitis, Western equine encephalitis, Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEEV), and Marburg virus (MARV). They also tested drug inhibition of viral infectivity against MARV and VEEV. They demonstrated that the virus strains could be easily titrated on the StemoniX platform, and that viral infection could be blocked using drugs.

Functional toxicology

Three-dimensional (3D) models have proven useful for interpreting complex biology of cells and tissues and have been used extensively in developmental biology and toxicity screening. Traditionally, cell cultures in 2D monolayers have been used for these studies. However, mechanical stress created by adhesion to an extracellular matrix or to other cells changes the processes of signal transduction and gene transcription. Three-dimensional cell cultures have more faithfully reproduced the functional activity of these cells than 2D cultures. Gene expression analysis has also shown that 3D cell culture triggers different patterns of gene expression.

About StemoniX

StemoniX® is transforming how medicine is discovered. By using skin or blood to create functioning microHearts® and microBrains®, StemoniX is making it possible to test medication on humans without that medication ever entering their bodies. This method of drug testing will speed up the search for new cures and enable the ability to test drug effectiveness on an individual person, so medicine works correctly the first time. For more information visit


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