Three-dimensional organotypic culture: experimental models of mammalian biology and disease

Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2014 Oct;15(10):647-64. doi: 10.1038/nrm3873. Epub 2014 Sep 17.


Mammalian organs are challenging to study as they are fairly inaccessible to experimental manipulation and optical observation. Recent advances in three-dimensional (3D) culture techniques, coupled with the ability to independently manipulate genetic and microenvironmental factors, have enabled the real-time study of mammalian tissues. These systems have been used to visualize the cellular basis of epithelial morphogenesis, to test the roles of specific genes in regulating cell behaviours within epithelial tissues and to elucidate the contribution of microenvironmental factors to normal and disease processes. Collectively, these novel models can be used to answer fundamental biological questions and generate replacement human tissues, and they enable testing of novel therapeutic approaches, often using patient-derived cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Culture Techniques*
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cellular Microenvironment / physiology
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / physiology*
  • Epithelium / embryology
  • Epithelium / growth & development*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Mammals
  • Morphogenesis / physiology*
  • Organ Culture Techniques