The added value of 3D cell culture

Friday, September 24th, 2010 by hinrich

3D cell culture

You can hear many talks about the limited translatability of results from experiments done with cell cultures that were grown in 2D ("in plastic"). Often you will then here that 3D culturing where cells can form structures (similar to e.g., tumor tissues, breast tissues, etc.) should lead to much better and much more predictive models.

While this sounds sensible, I am wondering: how much closer are we to the human situation? If 2D cell culture would represent 5% and the conditions in humans were 100%, are we now at 50% with 3D culturing? Or only at 10%? Or even less? Or do we simply swap one bias (as introduced by culturing cells in 2D) for another?

I believe that it will likely be what common sense suggests: most things have advantages and disadvantages. In the end, they are both models that will reflect the human situation better for some aspects but might have trade-offs for other things (e.g., which cells can form 3D structures / how fast you can grow them / how reliably they form 3D structures, how comparable and reproducible such structures form, etc.).

Let's not over promise things with 3D culturing, but rather thoroughly study and investigate this approach so that we can expand our scientific toolbox!

Posted in Science