Cell culture is a vital technique in many labs but requires researchers to recognize the trade-off between
- using a relatively simplified cell culture environment that minimizes confounding factors in order to draw cause-and-effect relationships that answer your research question
- faithfully recapitulating the important in vivo conditions so that the conclusions you draw reveal the actual physiology rather than artefacts.
While cell culture makes it easier to find potential answers to research questions, those findings may not always reflect in vivo biological processes. Compared to traditional cell culture, three-dimensional (3D) cell culture better navigates this trade-off. In fact, studies over the past decade from numerous labs have shown that 3D cell cultures more faithfully recapitulate in vivo physiology.
From preserving cell shape to signaling pathways to intercellular interactions, 3D cell culture confers several advantages over two-dimensional cell culture. 3D cell culture has thus been successfully used for research, diagnostic, and clinical applications in a number of fields:
- Cancer and stem cell biology
- Tissue engineering
- Drug discovery and testing
- Metabolic profiling