Within their endogenous niche stem cells proliferate and differentiate always in a three-dimensional environment. However, most concepts of cell differentiation or short-time expansion of stem cells are applied as two-dimensional cultivation strategies Notably, 2D culture of stem cells is known to result in unnatural polarity and morphology as well as to induce an altered migration and differentiation capability of the given cell. Thus, there is a high need of 3D cell culture approaches, which more closely resemble the original niche of the stem cell.


Fig. 1. 3D-cultivation approaches. After isolation out of their niche, stem cells can be either cultivated as a conventional 2D monolayer or grown on the surface of semisolid beads or embedded within a natural or artificial 3D matrix.

We are interested in the development of novel 3D cell culture protocols allowing rapid expansion of various stem cell populations in an animal component-free environment, without affecting their intrinsic properties. Our focus lies in 3D cultivation of mesenchymal, neural and neural crest-derived stem cells.


Greiner JF, Hauser S, Widera D, Müller J, Qunneis F, Zander C, Martin I, Mallah J, Schuetzmann D, Prante C, Schwarze H, Prohaska W, Beyer A, Rott K, Hütten A, Gölzhäuser A, Sudhoff H, Kaltschmidt C, Kaltschmidt B. Efficient animal-serum free 3D cultivation method for adult human neural crest-derived stem cell therapeutics.
Eur Cell Mater. 2011 Dec 17;22:403-19.

Greiner JF, Grunwald LM, Müller J, Sudhoff H, Widera D, Kaltschmidt C, Kaltschmidt B. Culture bag systems for clinical applications of adult human neural crest-derived stem cells. Stem Cell Res Ther. 2014 Mar 14;5(2):34. doi: 10.1186/scrt422.

Nguyen TD, Widera D, Greiner J, Müller J, Martin I, Slotta C, Hauser S, Kaltschmidt C, Kaltschmidt B. Prolonged cultivation of hippocampal neural precursor cells shifts their differentiation potential and selects for aneuploid cells.
Biol Chem. 2013 Dec;394(12):1623-36. doi: 10.1515/hsz-2013-0191.

Greiner JF, Kaltschmidt B, Kaltschmidt C, Widera D. Going 3D – Cell Culture Approaches for Stem Cell Research and Therapy. Current Tissue Engineering, 2013, 2, 8-19