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March 30, 2017

3D Cell Culture Models Staring at a Bright Future

Technological Advancements Improve Efficiency and Lower Cost

3D Cell Culture Models Staring at a Bright Future

3D cell culture models are gradually finding applications in therapeutic research, such as developmental biology, gene and protein expression, and tissue morphology. [dra_schwartz/Getty Images]

  • Medical science has taken giant strides ahead in the last two decades. With numerous advancements in the different fields of medicine, technology is playing an important role in the process. One such advancement that has gained significant popularity in the last decade is 3D cell culture.

    In the last ten years, the industry’s focus has shifted toward discovering and developing new drugs. Scientists and researchers are making use of in vitro techniques. And the trend is gradually shifting away from biochemical assays for drug development to a cell-based approach. Organ-on-chip and 3D cell culture technology have earned immense popularity in drug development, as they are cost-effective and efficient.

    There has been commendable progress in technology. However, an ideal 3D culture model has not been defined. 3D cell culture models are used to illustrate the cellular structure in humans and are gradually finding applications in therapeutic research, such as developmental biology, gene and protein expression, and tissue morphology. Additional research will create several opportunities in the future. 

  • 2D and 3D Cell Culture

    2D cell culture modelling has offered important and resourceful insights related to disease pathology, tissue morphogenesis, and cell development. However, it has several limitations and the need to shift to other techniques was identified. In 2D cell culture, the monolayer and the microenvironment do not imitate the in vivo conditions. The data accumulated using 2D models do not offer a clear understanding of the research, and thus 3D cell culture has gained importance in the last decade.

    The tissues in a human body are structured in a complicated 3D configuration that is surrounded by extracellular matrix (ECM) that forms a tissue’s microenvironment. A complex network is developed when the cells interact with the neighbouring cells and the ECM segments through chemical and mechanical signals, which develops into a complex communication system. This communication network regulates the vital stages of the cell life such as morphology, proliferation, gene expression, viability, differentiation, and the entire cell functionalities. A relevant cell culture model includes a similar cell communication in which the cultured microtissue is just like in vivo tissue.

    To understand and carry out a statistical analysis of the 3D cell culture, an adequate sample size is necessary. This means that it becomes necessary to replicate 3D cell cultures to offer a dataset from which conclusions can be drawn. 3D cell culture starts with initial cell seeding, which can be time-consuming as it involves cell handling. An automated workflow enables researchers to carry out thorough research related to cell culture in an efficient way. Automated workflow structures have been adopted in laboratory applications and more recently in 3D cell culture.

  • Importance of Quality Imaging

    The most significant advancement in cell culture research is the ability to create 3D microtissues. Important data can be drawn from these images such as microtissue growth, structure, and health. These imaging techniques have advanced in the last decade. It is important for an imaging system to penetrate enough so as to offer accurate data on the cells and cellular mass. The medium that holds the microtissue should be apt for imaging, and not interfere with the entire imaging process. Several innovative imaging techniques have gained recognition in recent times, including the adoption of automated workstations that modify or manipulate the image on the same plate. This enables monitoring of the growth of microtissue at a rapid pace without moving or disturbing the microtissue.

    In the current imaging scenario, the technology enables the capture of 3D images which are then further analysed and studied. High-resolution data collected by implementing the confocal imaging technology enables analysis at the subcellular level. Efforts are put into making the imaging technology and techniques cost-effective and more efficient.

  • Conclusions

    Advancements made in the medical field have boosted the growth of the 3D cell culture industry. 3D cell culture models will offer data that can be utilized to design in vivo tests. It is likely to reduce the bridge between 2D cell culture and clinical trials. Researchers and scientists are striving hard to make use of the 3D cell culture models as treatment assays in which the cells of patient’s cells can formulate into a personalized treatment plan. There are a few challenges as far as 3D cell culture models are concerned. These barriers are tackled by industry experts and researchers. The onset of new technologies are offering solutions to attain accurate, precise and a well-structured workflow.

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