Advanced Cell Culture Technology for Generation of In Vivo-like Tissue Models

The benefits of three dimensional (3D) cell culture are widely appreciated. More cell-based technologies are now becoming available that enable researchers to preserve the native 3D structure of cells in vitro. These can be broadly divided into three areas: aggregate-based methods; hydrogels and extra-cellular matrices; and inert scaffold-based technologies. Each has strengths and weaknesses and there is no one technology that satisfies all applications. Tissues in the body are mostly composed of different cell types, that are often highly organised in relation to each other. Often cells are arranged in distinct layers that enable signalling and cell-to-cell interactions. Recreation of these types of architecture will significantly evolve 3D cell culture to a new level where real tissue-like structures can be generated in vitro for research and discovery. Here we describe the application of Alvetex, a novel scaffold-based technology, that can be used to create advanced organotypic 3D models of various tissue types that more closely resemble in vivo-like conditions.
The ability to maintain and study tissue slices ex vivo is also an attractive application of Alvetex. The highly porous material enhances tissue viability and also acts to hold the sample stable during longterm live cell imaging experiments. This has been successfully applied to neurite outgrowth studies in spinal cord slices and the longterm maintenance of human stem cell derived tissues. It also has major implications for maintaining tissues ex vivo for approaches in personalised medicine.
More sophisticated models are developing as 3D cell culture technology becomes established and accepted as a means of creating more physiologically relevant in vivo-like cell-based assays. Methods that are relatively straightforward to use and that recreate the organised structure of real tissues, will become valuable research tools for use in discovery, validation studies, and modeling disease.