3D Cell Culture

In their natural physical environment, cells that form tissues and organs do not exist as single cell entities but are surrounded by other cells and are part of larger multicellular organisms. They are embedded within a complex non-cellular structure known as the extracellular matrix (ECM) which forms an interface between the cells and their adjacent stroma – anchoring and agglutinating the cells in a three-dimensional (3D) formation.
Despite this, most of the current cell biological research is still being performed using traditional two-dimensional (2D) monolayer cells cultures. However, the limitations and problems of 2D cell culture are increasingly known. As 2D cell culture does not adequately take into account the natural 3D environment of cells, it is an insufficient model for in vivo model contexts. There is a growing evidence that threedimensional (3D) cell culture systems, in contrast to the 2D culture system, represent more accurately the actual physiological in vivo microenvironment where cells reside in tissues and are permitted to grow or interact with their surroundings in a 3D fashion. Thus, they provide a more adequate model of the in vivo physiological conditions and are more reflective of in vivo cellular responses. As shape, size, and functionality of a cell is largely affected by the physical environment in which it is grown, cells in the 3D culture environment differ morphologically and physiologically from cells in the 2D culture environment and show clear differences with regard to many cellular processes such as cell proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis, and gene expression.
Artificially created 3D cell culture environments improve the functionality, differentiation and viability of cells. By mimicking the in vivo responses, 3D matrices and scaffolds provide a physiologically relevant screening platform for many cell types including cancer and stem cells in developmental morphogenesis, pharmacology, drug metabolism and drug toxicity studies.