The AlgiMatrix culture system uses a macroporous alginate sponge structure that can support the growth of many cell types. The system provides superior cell loading and nutrient delivery compared to standard 2D cell culture systems as well as allowing cell-cell interactions to occur. There is currently a wealth of interest in trying to culture cells in conditions that more closely mimic their natural environment so that they not only survive better but also provide more meaningful information during assays. Such a matrix could find use with the immortalised human cell cultures being developed in the University of Nottingham's FRAME laboratory, to reduce the number of animal experiments needed during the drug discovery process by providing better cell cultures to test drug candidates on. According to the company, cells grown in the AlgiMatrix deliver more predictive of disease states and drug responses than those grown in animal-derived matrices. "AlgiMatrix meets the growing demand in cell culture to replace two-dimensional culture dishes with 3D scaffolds," said Nicolas Barthelemy, Invitrogen's senior vice president of Cell Culture Systems. "This scaffolding better mirrors the environment experienced by normal cells in the body, and enables inter-cellular interactions with more realistic biology and functional relevance making it suitable for many cell-based screening, drug discovery, and human cell therapy procedures." The matrix is shipped in a sterile 96 well-plate format that is preloaded with the sponge allowing researchers to simply add the cell line of choice to the wells and then incubate them. There are other 3D matrices available, including agar, collagen and BD Biosciences' Matrigel, but Invitrogen claims they are: "either difficult to use or are of animal origin with significant lot to lot variation." By using pharmaceutical grade raw materials derived from brown seaweed, the company believes it can overcome these problems and offer superior cell loading and nutrient delivery without damaging the cells being cultured. Last year, researchers from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer-Sheva, Israel used similar scaffolds to investigate the applicability of C3A human hepatocyte cells as a predictive tool for drug metabolism. The research, published in the journal Tissue Engineering showed that the use of the support enabled cells to metabolise the cytochrome P450 ethoxyresorufin fluorescence based assay three times more effectively than C3A cell monolayers. Invitrogen is confident that with the addition of this new cell scaffolding it has a complete range of tools for cell biology researchers. "Cell biology involves so much more than keeping cells alive in the lab. It requires cell characterisation and monitoring throughout the experiment, and sensitive assay readouts for meaningful scientific results," said Barthelemy "By combining our cell culture capabilities with labelling and detection technologies from our Molecular Probes subsidiary, we believe we can offer our customers complete solutions for conducting better, more complete research into the biology of cells."