3D Cell Culture: A Review of Current Approaches and Techniques

Methods Mol Biol. 2011;695:1-15. doi: 10.1007/978-1-60761-984-0_1.


Cell culture in two dimensions has been routinely and diligently undertaken in thousands of laboratories worldwide for the past four decades. However, the culture of cells in two dimensions is arguably primitive and does not reproduce the anatomy or physiology of a tissue for informative or useful study. Creating a third dimension for cell culture is clearly more relevant, but requires a multidisciplinary approach and multidisciplinary expertise. When entering the third dimension, investigators need to consider the design of scaffolds for supporting the organisation of cells or the use of bioreactors for controlling nutrient and waste product exchange. As 3D culture systems become more mature and relevant to human and animal physiology, the ability to design and develop co-cultures becomes possible as does the ability to integrate stem cells. The primary objectives for developing 3D cell culture systems vary widely - and range from engineering tissues for clinical delivery through to the development of models for drug screening. The intention of this review is to provide a general overview of the common approaches and techniques for designing 3D culture models.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biocompatible Materials / pharmacology
  • Bioreactors
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Tissue Scaffolds / chemistry


  • Biocompatible Materials