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In Scientific reports ; h5-index 158.0

The last two decades saw the establishment of three-dimensional (3D) cell cultures as an acknowledged tool to investigate cell behaviour in a tissue-like environment. Cells growing in spheroids differentiate and develop different characteristics in comparison to their two-dimensionally grown counterparts and are hence seen to exhibit a more in vivo-like phenotype. However, generating, treating and analysing spheroids in high quantities remains labour intensive and therefore limits its applicability in drugs and compound research. Here we present a fully automated pipetting robot that is able to (a) seed hanging drops from single cell suspensions, (b) treat the spheroids formed in these hanging drops with drugs and (c) analyse the viability of the spheroids by an image-based deep learning based convolutional neuronal network (CNN). The model is trained to classify between 'unaffected', 'mildly affected' and 'affected' spheroids after drug exposure. All corresponding spheroids are initially analysed by viability flow cytometry analysis to build a labelled training set for the CNN to subsequently reduce the number of misclassifications. Hence, this approach allows to efficiently examine the efficacy of drug combinatorics or new compounds in 3D cell culture. Additionally, it may provide a valuable instrument to screen for new and individualized systemic therapeutic strategies in second and third line treatment of solid malignancies using patient derived primary cells.

Benning Leo, Peintner Andreas, Finkenzeller G√ľnter, Peintner Lukas