Three-dimensional cell cultures: from molecular mechanisms to clinical applications

Am J Physiol. 1997 Oct;273(4):C1109-23. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.1997.273.4.C1109.


This article reviews actual advances in the development and application of three-dimensional (3-D) cell culture systems. Recent therapeutically oriented studies include characterization of multicellular-mediated drug resistance, novel ways of quantifying hypoxia, and new approaches to more efficient immunotherapy. Recent progress toward understanding the development of necrosis in tumor spheroids has been made using novel spheroid models. 3-D cultures have been used for studies on molecular mechanisms involved in invasion and metastasis, with a major focus on the role of E-cadherin. Similarly, tumor angiogenesis and the significance of vascular endothelial growth factor have been investigated in a variety of 3-D culture systems. There are many ongoing developments in tissue modeling or remodeling that promise significant progress toward the development of bioartificial liver support and artificial blood. Perhaps one of the most interesting areas of basic research with 3-D cultures is the characterization of embryoid bodies obtained from stable embryonic stem cells. These models have greatly increased the understanding of embryonic development, in particular through the notable exceptional advances in cardiogenesis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods*
  • Cell Hypoxia
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured*