Welcome to the 3rd Dimension

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Cell culturing is a widely used technique to grow cells outside of their natural environment using artificial environments and controlled conditions that has become indispensable to scientific research.  The applications of cell culturing are innumerable and there are many ways to differentiate types of cell culturing.  For instance, there are cells isolated from normal or disease models, primary or immortalized, adherent or suspension, 2D or 3D.  This blog post will focus on 2D cell culturing versus 3D cell culturing to ostend ScienCell’s new line of 3D culturing kits that model endothelial tube formation.

Traditional 2D culturing generally involves growing adherent cells on a flat plastic surface such as in a T-75 flask or a tissue culturing dish.  Depending on the cell type, sometimes the plastic surface is coated with an extracellular matrix component or biological compound to promote cell attachment such as fibronectin or poly-L-lysine.  In the case of normal primary cells, cultures are often of a single cell type in culturing media formulated specifically for that cell type.  While 2D systems definitely have their advantages and certain cell properties are more easily assessed in a 2D system, being so far removed from physiological growing conditions can alter the behavior of the cells.  Because of this, it can be difficult to extrapolate data from 2D in vitro experiments and use that data to predict how cells might behave in their native tissue settings.  Some major differences between the 2D growing environment of most cell cultures and their native tissue environments are the rigidity of the substrate, the lack of scaffolding, and the fact that cell types are typically grown in isolation.  These are problematic because functioning tissues often contain more than one cell type and depend on cellular crosstalk, are softer than plastic, and provide a 3-dimensional scaffold that contributes its own tensions and signaling cues.  3D cell culturing addresses some of these concerns.

3D and 2D cultures offer the similar advantages to cell culturing such as cost and time efficiency as well as being a controlled environment, but 3D cultures can be more difficult to maintain and develop due to their inherent increased complexity.  Because 3D scaffolds more accurately model physiological conditions in terms of mechanics, tension, rigidity, and substrate composition, cells cultured in 3D environments better represent their native counterparts in terms of morphology, proliferation, migration, differentiation, and signaling.  Indeed, the utility of 3D cell culturing systems is being increasingly realized and there has been a general shift toward using 3D systems for in vitro work over the last two decades.  3D systems also range in complexity from single cell type cultures to multi-cellular organoids.  Data generated from 3D cell culturing is arguably more physiologically relevant than traditional 2D cultures and therefore projections into in vivo systems are made more relevant.  In the future, the more sophisticated 3D systems could even be used as alternatives to in vivo modeling altogether.


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