Towards using 3D cellular cultures to model the activation and diverse functions of macrophages

Biochem Soc Trans. 2023 Feb 27;51(1):387-401. doi: 10.1042/BST20221008.


The advent of 3D cell culture technology promises to enhance understanding of cell biology within tissue microenvironments. Whilst traditional cell culturing methods have been a reliable tool for decades, they inadequately portray the complex environments in which cells inhabit in vivo. The need for better disease models has pushed the development of effective 3D cell models, providing more accurate drug screening assays. There has been great progress in developing 3D tissue models in fields such as cancer research and regenerative medicine, driven by desires to recreate the tumour microenvironment for the discovery of new chemotherapies, or development of artificial tissues or scaffolds for transplantation. Immunology is one field that lacks optimised 3D models and the biology of tissue resident immune cells such as macrophages has yet to be fully explored. This review aims to highlight the benefits of 3D cell culturing for greater understanding of macrophage biology. We review current knowledge of macrophage interactions with their tissue microenvironment and highlight the potential of 3D macrophage models in the development of more effective treatments for disease.

Keywords: 3D culture; bioengineering; bioprinting; cell cultures; extracellular matrix; macrophages.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bioprinting*
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Cell Culture Techniques, Three Dimensional
  • Macrophages
  • Printing, Three-Dimensional*
  • Regenerative Medicine
  • Tissue Engineering