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3D Cell Culture Tools and Applications

3D Cell Culture Workflow Tools

Cells in their natural environment have constant interactions with their extracellular matrix (ECM) and other cells, regulated by complex biological functions. Three-dimensional (3D) cell culture systems allow cells to grow and interact with their surroundings in all three dimensions.

By utilizing 3D cell culture models, researchers can simulate the in vivo physiological microenvironment. These models also provide better predictive in vitro cell models for applications including cancer research, drug discovery, and regenerative medicine. Transitioning to 3D cell culture can bring together the biological relevance of animal models with the accessibility of traditional 2D models.

Fluorescence image of human colon organoids stained for mucin-1, F-actin, and DAPI

Figure 1. Characterization of human colon organoids using immunocytochemical stains for Mucin-1, F-actin, and DAPI.

We offer an extensive portfolio of tools, protocols, and technologies to support 3D cell culture. Our portfolio is ideal for applications such as drug permeability, ADME/toxicity assays, cancer, and autoimmune disorders. Explore our Knowledge Center and discover answers to questions about organoids, hydrogels, and organotypic cultures, including:

  1. Are there advantages to 3D cell culture?
  2. What organoid and hydrogel are ideal for my application?
  3. Are organotypic cultures a good model for my cell-based application?
  4. Is the cell culture plate I use important for 3D cell culture applications?

We offer an extensive portfolio of tools, protocols, and technologies to support 3D cell culture applications such as drug permeability, ADME/toxicity assays, cancer, and autoimmune disorders. 

: Apical-out Human Colon Organoids Generation.

Figure 2. Apical-out Human Colon Organoids Generation. The epithelial cell polarity was reversed using the apical-out organoid culture protocol and 3dGRO™ Human Colon Intestinal Organoids. Polarity reversion was determined using DAPI (blue) and ZO-1 (MABT339, Green) immunocytochemical staining.

Organoids are a collection of organ-specific cell types that exhibit in vivo-like organ anatomy, functionality, and phenotypes. They can be derived from patient tissues (patient-derived organoids; PDOs) or induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).

Organoids have been used to study organ-specific disorders and diseases including related cancers, inflammatory bowel disease, and cystic fibrosis. They are also used to study viral respiratory disease, drug transport, drug permeability, ADME/Tox, and organogenesis. Organoids are typically cultured using hydrogels.

We provide organoids derived from patient tissues, induced pluripotent stem cells, and answers to frequently asked questions about organoid culture:

Organoid Culture Frequently Asked Questions

Hydrogels are a cellular tool that researchers use to mimic the natural cellular environment in vitro. As a water-swollen network of polymers, hydrogels remain in the liquid state at 4˚C. This allows researchers to ebbed cells before the gel forms at incubation temperatures of 37˚C. The cells then become encapsulated in the gel and can be cultured in an environment that is physiologically relevant.

Need to choose a hydrogel? Learn about the key considerations in hydrogel selection for 3D cell culture applications, including:

  • Natural vs. synthetic hydrogels
  • Biological relevance
  • Reactivity
  • Ease of use
  • Reproducibility
  • Customization
  • Formats including powders, liquids, kits, and pre-cast microplates

Moving from 2D to 3D

3D cell culture is an in vitro method for researchers who want to more closely model physiological conditions. It is often more relevant than using traditional 2D methods. 3D cell culture methods promote interactions with other cells and with the physical environment. These interactions can regulate multiple cellular functions, including transcription regulation and apoptosis.

Scaffold-free technologies

One method of 3D cell culture is the scaffold-free model. Scaffold-free 3D cell culture techniques allow cells to self-assemble and form non-adherent cell aggregates, clusters, spheroids, or tumorspheres.

Scaffold-based technologies

In scaffold-based 3D cell culture methods, 3D scaffolds provide structural support for cell attachment and tissue development. This recapitulates elements of the native extracellular matrix (ECM) or cellular environment.

For researchers studying drug safety and efficacy, ADME/toxicity, and biotherapeutics development, 3D cell culture models can reduce the time spent in setting up and performing assays. 

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