In this report, a strategy for constructing three-dimensional (3D) cellular architectures comprising viable cells is presented. The strategy uses a redox-responsive hydrogel that degrades under mild reductive conditions, and a confluent monolayer of cells (i.e., cell sheet) cultured on the hydrogel surface peels off and self-folds to wrap other cells. As a proof-of-concept, the self-folding of fibroblast cell sheet was triggered by immersion in aqueous cysteine, and this folding process was controlled by the cysteine concentration. Such folding enabled the wrapping of human hepatocellular carcinoma (HepG2) spheroids, human umbilical vein endothelial cells and collagen beads, and this process improved cell viability, the secretion of metabolites and the proliferation rate of the HepG2 cells when compared with a two-dimensional culture under the same conditions. A key concept of this study is the ability to interact with other neighbouring cells, providing a new, simple and fast method to generate higher-order cellular aggregates wherein different types of cellular components are added. We designated the method of using a cell sheet to wrap another cellular aggregate the ‘cellular Furoshiki’. The simple self-wrapping Furoshiki technique provides an alternative approach to co-culture cells by microplate-based systems, especially for constructing heterogeneous 3D cellular microstructures.
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