Cell culture has become an indispensable tool to help uncover fundamental biophysical and biomolecular mechanisms by which cells assemble into tissues and organs, how these tissues function, and how that function becomes disrupted in disease. Cell culture is now widely used in biomedical research, tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, and industrial practices. Although flat, two-dimensional (2D) cell culture has predominated, recent research has shifted toward culture using three-dimensional (3D) structures, and more realistic biochemical and biomechanical microenvironments. Nevertheless, in 3D cell culture, many challenges remain, including the tissue-tissue interface, the mechanical microenvironment, and the spatiotemporal distributions of oxygen, nutrients, and metabolic wastes. Here, we review 2D and 3D cell culture methods, discuss advantages and limitations of these techniques in modeling physiologically and pathologically relevant processes, and suggest directions for future research.
Copyright © 2017 the American Physiological Society.