Coming ‘Round to Spheroid Culture

by Bhaskar S. Mandavilli, Cindy Neeley, MaryKay Bates, and Magnus Persmark
Volume 14, Issue 3 (Fall 2015)

Cells cultured in 2D can differ in terms of both physiology and cellular responses compared with cells in vivo. This has led to a surge in the popularity of using 3D culture techniques as mounting evidence suggests that culturing cells in 3D is more representative of the in vivo environment, even to the extent that the gene expression profiles of cells from 3D cultures more accurately reflect clinical expression profiles than those observed in 2D cultures. 3D culture offers the potential for more accurate models of drug delivery and efficacy, as well as numerous clinical and research applications, and is becoming increasingly capable of integrating into high-throughput activities. Spheroids, or sphere cultures, have become an especially exciting area of 3D in vitro culture due to their great potential for use in studies that investigate growth and function of both malignant and normal tissues. These sphere cultures have contributed considerably to our knowledge of cellular responses thanks to the accuracy with which they reflect the in vivo system. This is primarily a result of the fact that cells do not normally grow or interact in isolation, but instead form complex interactions with other cells and the surrounding microenvironment. Thus, the creation of a 3D environment that incorporates spheroids closely mimics in vivo, allowing researchers to incorporate cell-cell interactions, nutrient gradients, and diffusion kinetics in their in vitro models. Researchers have been making use of these culture methods across multiple fields for a number of years and have made considerable contributions to our knowledge of cellular interactions and behaviors. Spheroids offer particular benefits in cancer biology where they contribute immense value in examining the growth and behavior of tumors since they share several key histomorphological and functional traits that include the formation of cell-cell contacts, decreased proliferation, increased survival rates, and a hypoxic core...

Mandavilli BS, Neeley C, Bates M, Persmark M. Coming ‘round to spheroid culture. BioProcess J, 2015; 14(3): 44–9.

Posted online October 9, 2015.