Dimensions of Progress
How far along is the pharmaceutical industry in its journey with 3D cell culture technologies?
Maryam Mahdi | | Interview
With the ability to promote levels of cell differentiation and tissue organization not achievable in 2D cell models, a new generation of 3D disease models and assay technologies are changing the industry’s approach to the study of human pathophysiology. These organotypic 3D human tissue models enable drug developers to simulate conditions of complex diseases in a well, a feat that could potentially help shorten development cycles and produce better lead and compound identification. But despite the clear benefits of 3D assay technology, some reluctance to move away from 2D models lingers-- and not without reason. Pharma has an established history with 2D culture and a plethora of comparative literature cites their use. Even though simplistic 2D cell cultures don’t mimic human biology or allow cells to interact the way they would in vivo, 3D technologies and disease models have perceived challenges. At first glance, 3D assays seem more expensive than comparable 2D assays and high-volume spheroid model production for industrial scale testing isn’t easy. Moreover, 2D fans will cite another valid concern: 3D cell cultures don’t lend themselves to maintaining quality readouts over time and thus have the potential to introduce variability into experiments.
Here we speak to Jan Lichtenberg, CEO and Co-founder, and Frank Junker, CBO, both at InSphero, a biotechnology company based in Switzerland that provides scalable 3D in vitro cell culture platforms for drug discovery and safety testing, about the benefits 3D cell culture and disease models are bringing to the industry, the current challenges associated with adoption of new technology, and what it will take to encourage hesitant companies to explore 3D solutions further.
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