From 3D cell culture to organs-on-chips

Trends Cell Biol. 2011 Dec;21(12):745-54. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2011.09.005. Epub 2011 Oct 25.


3D cell-culture models have recently garnered great attention because they often promote levels of cell differentiation and tissue organization not possible in conventional 2D culture systems. We review new advances in 3D culture that leverage microfabrication technologies from the microchip industry and microfluidics approaches to create cell-culture microenvironments that both support tissue differentiation and recapitulate the tissue-tissue interfaces, spatiotemporal chemical gradients, and mechanical microenvironments of living organs. These 'organs-on-chips' permit the study of human physiology in an organ-specific context, enable development of novel in vitro disease models, and could potentially serve as replacements for animals used in drug development and toxin testing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomimetic Materials
  • Cell Culture Techniques*
  • Humans
  • Membranes, Artificial
  • Microfluidics
  • Models, Biological


  • Membranes, Artificial