The Science of Alvetex

Alvetex® enables scientists to perform routine 3D cell culture in almost any science laboratory.

The following attributes make Alvetex the perfect product for reliable and reproducible 3D cell culture:

  • Genuine 3D cell culture. Alvetex has a highly porous and consistent scaffold structure that provides the ideal environment for cells to grow and proliferate in three dimensions. This helps to generate highly effective and reproducible 3D cell growth.
  • Easily switch between 2D and 3D cell culture. Alvetexis made from the same inert polystyrene material as standard 2D cell culture plasticware. This gives researchers the confidence to switch easily between 2D and 3D cell culture experiments. Scientists can therefore continue to use the same cell culture media and reagents in both types of studies.
  • Ideal geometry for 3D cell culture. The geometry and dimensions of Alvetex have been specifically designed to mimic a typical in vivo cellular environment. Alvetexis 200 µm thick and so no cell is more than 100 µm from a source of nutrients and gasses. This compares favourably to the typical in vivo environment where cells are generally no more than 150-200 µm away from a capillary.
  • Ideal for long term studies. Alvetexis inert and highly stable, even during long-term cell culture. This means you can avoid any potential experimental variability even over long-term studies.
  • No new equipment is required. Alvetex 3D cell culture is compatible with existing standard cell culture plates from all cell manufacturers and does not require the use of additional equipment.

The Science of 3D Cell Culture: Does Alvetex work?

The geometry and shape of a cultured cell is significantly affected by the physical environment in which it grows. This figure shows confocal imaging of hepatocytes labelled with a fluorescent dye grown in 2D cell culture (standard cell culture plastic) and Alvetex 3D cell culture (both cultures were grown in polystyrene substrates). Cells grown in 2D have a large proportion of their surface exposed to either the plastic substrate or the culture medium. Interaction between adjacent cells is localised primarily to their edges. In a 3D system, there is significantly greater scope for interaction and signalling between adjacent cells which resembles how cells constitute a tissue (see below).


Alvetex 3D cell culture provides an environment and physical space in which cells can grow and form interactions with their neighbours in 3D space. In effect, Alvetex enables the user to grow a ‘slab’ of tissue 200 microns thick. In the example below, cultured keratinocytes have been fixed, embedded in resin, sectioned and stained with Toluidine Blue. The scaffold is seen in white.


Tol Blue thick epidermis x10 2

The Structure of Alvetex Scaffold

Alvetex is a highly porous, inert polystyrene scaffold that provides cultured cells with an environment and physical space in which to grow in 3 dimensions. The architecture of Alvetex (shown below in this scanning electron microscope (SEM) image) illustrates the voids which are interconnected by pores creating a scaffold with > 90 % porosity. Once seeded onto Alvetex, typically cells easily invade the scaffold and start to produce genuine, homogeneous 3D cellular structures that resemble micro-slabs of tissue.


SEM Alvetex structure

Is Alvetex easy to use?

Absolutely. Follow the instructions provided for a simple 4 step procedure:

  1. Unwrap product
  2. Prepare scaffold for 3D cell culture
  3. Add cell suspension in appropriate medium at optimised seeding density
  4. Place in incubator and culture cells in 3D

Is Alvetex 3D cell culture compatible with other assays?

In vitro derived 3D tissues grown on Alvetex can be studied using a variety of standard molecular and cellular techniques:

  • Tissue processing, fixation, embedding and sectioning
  • Histological staining, in situ hybridisation
  • Bright-field microscopy and photographic imaging
  • Electron microscopy – both SEM and TEM
  • Cryostat sectioning
  • Immunocytochemistry
  • Fluorescence microscopy, confocal, laser capture
  • Isolation of viable cells for passaging
  • Flow cytometry and cytospinning
  • Extraction of nucleic acid and total protein
  • Biochemical assays