The past decades have witnessed significant efforts toward the development of three-dimensional (3D) cell cultures. Today, 3D cell cultures are emerging not only as a new tool in early drug discovery, but also as potential therapeutics to treat disease.
While the use of human cell lines has become a permanent fixture in drug discovery and development, the lingering issue has been in their inconsistent results.
3D cell culture has the potential to deliver higher quality culture information that is more representative of tissue morphology and predictive of drug responses in vivo.
Cell culture is and has historically been an essential component of the drug discovery toolbox. Cell culture provides the proteins, membrane preparations and other raw materials required for biological research. In recent years, with the emergence of high-throughput screening technology and binding and live, cell-based functional assays, the demand for cells and new cell lines with varying growth characteristics and expression profiles has grown substantially, both in terms of volume and variety.
The transition from cell culture on the flat surface of a conventional twodimensional (2D) culture vessel to a three-dimensional (3D) environment, matrix or scaffold with 3D architecture has begun, and is providing much needed support for emerging applications in tissue engineering and stem cell research. Biomimetic scaffolds (eg hydrogel or collagen) have shown potential in culturing specific cell types and in investigating different aspects of the cellmatrix interaction in 3D.
Improved in vitro models are required to aid the identification and assessment of candidate molecules for pharmaceutical development. Conventional cell culture models involve the growth of cells on two-dimensional (2D) substrates. Cells adapt to this synthetic 2D environment, become flattened and behave in an aberrant fashion. There is now significant demand for new three-dimensional (3D) cell culture models which allow cells to grow and adapt to their environment in a manner that more closely represents that experienced by their native counterparts. There are numerous advantages in enabling cells to acquire a natural 3D phenotype, including increased cell proliferation, differentiation and function. This article provides a brief overview of some of the technologies and approaches developed for 3D cell culture.