Emerging Technologies in 3D Cell Culture Applications
Life science researchers have depended on primarily adherent, two-dimensional (2D) cell culture techniques where cells of interest are cultured in plastic or glassware for study of human cells, tissues, and disease models. Since, 2D cell cultures lack philological relevancy due to absence of metabolic and proliferative gradients leading to misinterpretations of results, advanced 3-dimensional (3D) models have been developed that greatly influence the in-vitro culturing and driving cell culture market. In contrast to 2D environment, cells grown in 3D environment display higher degree of intercellular interactions, assume more physiologically relevant morphologies and preserve higher-order tissue processes.
Development of new tools, technologies, and protocols are making 3D cell culture simple, cheap, reproducible and scalable-enough for adaptation in various applications such as drug development, cancer research, toxicity testing, drug screening, tissue engineering, regenerative medicine and stem cell research. As these tools have become more accessible and validated, researchers in both academia and biopharmaceutical fields are shifting their attention from 2D to 3D cell culture. Various technologies have been developed for growing cells in 3D environment based on specific need this includes Scaffold based, Scaffold free, Bioreactors, Microchips, Hydrogels. Among these, Scaffold free based techniques are gaining popularity due to ease of reproducibility. Consumables related to 3D cell culture consists of Cells & Tissues, Assay kits, Media & Sera, Microplate & Reagents, in consumables various types of assay kits are being developed to hasten the process of screening different type of cells for development of specific applications such as CellTiter-Glo assay- Promega (U.S.), perfecta-3D Biomatrix(U.S.), 3DInsight-Insphero (Switzerland) to name a few.
The explosion of innovative technologies such as 3D bioprinting, magnetic levitation, organ-on-chip, 3D vascularised organs, mimetix 3D scaffolds and nano-culture plates is advancing adaptation of 3D cell culture techniques raising research and investment budgetary allocations. Companies that specialize in 3D cell culture technologies are emerging such as Organovo (U.S.) that has launched first exVive3D human liver tissue by human hepatocytes for drug toxicity testing. MIMETAS (U.S.) offers microfluidic based high throughput automated organoplates. . Amsbio (U.K.) and Electrospining Company (U.K.) offers mimetix scaffolds for culturing cells. Scivax Life Sciences, Inc (Japan) offers nano culture plates for 3D culturing of cells.
However, more work needs to be done in areas such as skill development and consistency of raw materials derived from animal sources, satisfying stringent regulatory requirements and high initial investment requirement. In adaptation of 3D cell culture technologies, developed countries in North America and European Region are in the forefront and are progressively being adapted in development of new models for candidate drug screening and cytotoxicity testing, biopharmaceutical applications, the government funding opportunities in cancer research and disease screening has increased interest in 3D cell culture technologies. The Asia-Pacific region with developing countries presents a high growth potential for this emerging field of application.
Some of factors driving investments and innovations in 3D cell culture are the increasing demand for ethical treatment of animals and animal rights activism combined with lack of availability of suitable animal models especially in cancer research and the promise of development of replaceable organs grown in labs for patients suffering due to organ failure.