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Shifting Preferences Due to Flawless Techniques Are Creating Prospects for the Global 3D Cell Culture Market

For analyzing an organism, it is important to understand the physiology and biochemistry of a cell. It becomes possible through cell culture. Cell culture is a process in which the cells are isolated from the tissue (in vitro), and an artificial environment for the cell, comprised of essential nutrients, gases, hormones, and growth factors, is induced. The cells are cultured in both, two (2D) and three (3D) dimensions. There has been an increasing preference, and demand for 3D cell culture platforms in domains like drug discovery, regenerative medicine, cancer biology, and basic life science research. It is proving to be instrumental in finding out the key facets of any disease and articulates the micro-environmental factors that aid the in vivo tumor growth. It has further turned out to be beneficial in investigating the phenotypic heterogeneity of cancer cells and heterotypic intercellular cross-talk. The increasing prevalence of cancer has impacted the 3D cell culture market growth.
Shifting Preference towards 3D Cell Culture
In 3D cell culture, the cells placed in vitro environment are enabled to grow in all three dimensions, similar to how they would in vivo. The cells can grow into 3D cell colonies or spheroids since they are grown in bioreactors and small capsules. In 2D cell culture, cells are grown on flat dishes (e.g., petri dish). 3D cell cultures provide an accurate representation of cell polarization, while cells are partially polarized in 2D. In terms of gene expression, too, the cells grown differ in both the models. 3D cell cultures have longer lifespans and showcase better stability. This makes them appropriate for long-term studies and analyzing the long-term effects of the drugs. Such abilities in terms of compensating the flaws related to 2D monolayer cell culture are, thereby generating revenue in the 3D cell culture market.
The cells in a living tissue exist in three-dimensional microenvironments with intricate cell-to-matrix- to-cell interactions and complex transport dynamics for cells and nutrients. As a result, the 3D cell cultures can mimic the tumor microenvironment in cancer. This is also seen in tissue engineering, where, unlike its counterpart, the 3D cell culture model provides relevant information about human physiology. Also, the 3D cell cultures can exhibit a realistic scenario of drug response, which results in increasing its preference for cancer research.
Cell-based assays are an inevitable part of the drug discovery and development process. The traditional 2D cell culture was used for drug discovery for more than a century. But, there are certain limitations associated with it. The natural microenvironments are poorly imitated, where the cells are grown as a monolayer, thereby offering abnormal cell attachments and growth kinetics. On the other hand, 3D cell culture demonstrates intracellular junctions and protein expression patterns, resembling in vivo states, as compared to monolayer cultures. There have been an increase in the adoption of 3D cell culture by pharmaceutical companies for toxicity screening regenerative medicine, and drug discovery. This is due to its advantages, such as optimal oxygen and nutrient gradients, realistic cell to cell interactions, and non-uniform exposure of cells within a spheroid to the drug, in the study of drug candidates. According to Inkwood Research, the 3D cell culture is estimated to witness increased demands from diagnostic centers and hospitals, since the 3D models are much more beneficial than 2D models in providing thorough physiological information, and accurate cellular environment investigation.
3D Cell Culture Market Outlook
According to the estimations by Inkwood Research, the global market for 3D cell culture is set to grow considerably in the coming years. The 3D cell culture finds wide applications in biological research, further aided by technological advancements. The increasing chronic diseases have resulted in increased demands for organ transplantation. The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that about 5,00,000 Americans benefit from a transplant every year. 3D cell culture is an integral part of regenerative medicine. Regenerative medicine plays a crucial role in curbing the shortage of organ transplantation. Over the years, there has been extensive research on the deployment of 3D cell culture for regenerative medicine in organ transplantation. The 3D cell culture has the advantages of improved cellular viability and differentiation behavior, enhanced graft adherence, and direct transplantation benefits that include higher cellular loading densities within the transplant.
3D cell culture, when utilized in drug screening, will aid in the development of efficient drugs, and reduce high attrition rates. Major research labs use the cell culturing technique to develop models for a better understanding of anatomy and human physiology. The advantage of 3D cell culture, with regard to the deliverance of predictive data and relevant information, is set to have a positive influence on the market growth in the future. The introduction of novel tools in the 3D cell culture, in terms of stem-cell-based research, like the 3D bioprinting technology, enables the creation of 3D printed building blocks of embryonic stem cells. This is further utilized for tissue generation experiments and micro-organ generation.
What lies in the future?
Though 3D cell culture as a market entity has immense growth opportunities in cancer research, organ transplant, and drug screening, certain restraints and challenges need to be tackled for full-fledged market growth. The expenditure associated with the implementation of 3D cell culture is high and impedes growth in several regional markets. However, there are increasing global investments by contract research organizations (CROs), government, and funding bodies that are aiding in curbing these issues. The 3D cell culture is yet to replace the 2D models on a large scale, due to a lack of uniformity in results and the incompatibility in the preferred analytical technologies.
The 3D cell culture is a recent technique and carries certain issues when it comes to generating optimized models. On the other hand, the 2D cell culture is a well-established technique with many models and is widely accepted on a conventional basis. The 3D cell culture requires expertise in building in-vitro models. Also, the development of assays for the tissues becomes a tedious process, since they are complex, and have a nature of microtissues. The other problems faced are contamination and the cell adherence to the medium for which the removal becomes difficult. These issues can be resolved by creating optimized 3D cell culture models. There have been several initiatives for the same, for instance, one by RAFT™ 3D Culture System that developed complex multilayer cell, culture models.
The 3D cell culture technique is yet to be utilized a large scale in the drug development process, despite having several advantages over the 2D cell culture technique. The drug penetration is difficult, and the results vary with the method. The assay procedures lack standard protocol, and the 3D cell culture being a recently introduced one, not much data is available to create a stable protocol for producing a standard analysis. Since this process is not recognized in the small and middle laboratories, it is yet to reach the masses.


Author: Akhil Nair

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