Adipose models have been applied to mechanistic studies of metabolic diseases (such as diabetes) and the subsequent discovery of new therapeutics. However, typical models are either insufficiently complex (2D cell cultures) or expensive and labor intensive (mice/in vivo). To bridge the gap between these models and in order to better inform pre-clinical studies we have developed a drug-responsive 3D model of white adipose tissue (WAT).
Here, spheroids (680 ± 60 μm) comprising adipogenic 3T3-L1 cells encapsulated in 3D matrix were fabricated manually on a 96 well scale. Spheroids were highly characterised for lipid morphology, selected metabolite and adipokine secretion, and gene expression; displaying significant upregulation of certain adipogenic-specific genes compared with a 2D model. Furthermore, induction of lipolysis and promotion of lipogenesis in spheroids could be triggered by exposure to 8-br-cAMP and oleic-acid respectively. Metabolic and high content imaging data of spheroids exposed to an adipose-targeting drug, rosiglitazone, resulted in dose-responsive behavior. Thus, our 3D WAT model has potential as a powerful scalable tool for compound screening and for investigating adipose biology.