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A comparison of 2D and 3D cell cultures

Cell culture is the process of growing cells outside of their natural environment, typically in a laboratory setting. It involves the cultivation of cells in a controlled environment, usually in a special liquid medium that provides the necessary nutrients and conditions for the cells to grow and proliferate. The cells are typically grown in sterile vessels, such as test tubes or culture flasks, and are maintained in an incubator that provides the right temperature and atmospheric conditions. Applications of cell culture Cell culture is widely used in various areas of biological research, including cell biology, genetics, and biochemistry. It allows scientists to study the growth, functions, and behavior of cells in a controlled environment and can be used to produce large quantities of cells for a variety of purposes, including drug testing, vaccine production, and gene therapy.

The choice between 2D and 3D cell culture depends on the specific goals of the experiment or application. (1).

2D cell culture

2D cell culture refers to growing cells on a flat surface, typically a petri dish or a culture plate, as a monolayer. This type of culture is widely used because it is easy to perform, relatively cheap, and can be performed on a large scale. However, 2D cell culture does not accurately mimic the in vivo cellular microenvironment, and it can lead to cellular changes or alterations in gene expression (2,3). 3D cell culture

3D cell culture refers to growing cells in a three-dimensional structure, which provides a more complex and physiological environment for the cells. This type of culture better mimics the in vivo cellular microenvironment, and it can be used to study cellular behavior and interactions with other cells and the extracellular matrix. However, 3D cell culture can be challenging and time-consuming to set up and maintain, and it is also more expensive (3).

In conclusion, both 2D and 3D cell culture have their own advantages and disadvantages, and the choice between them depends on the research question and the desired outcome.


1. Segeritz CP, Vallier L. Cell Culture: Growing Cells as Model Systems In Vitro. Basic Science Methods for Clinical Researchers. 2017:151–72. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-803077-6.00009-6. Epub 2017 Apr 7. PMCID: PMC7149418.

2. Antoni D, Burckel H, Josset E, Noel G. Three-dimensional cell culture: a breakthrough in vivo. Int J Mol Sci. 2015 Mar 11;16(3):5517-27. doi: 10.3390/ijms16035517. PMID: 25768338; PMCID: PMC4394490.

3. Jensen C, Teng Y. Is It Time to Start Transitioning From 2D to 3D Cell Culture? Front Mol Biosci. 2020 Mar 6;7:33. doi: 10.3389/fmolb.2020.00033. PMID: 32211418; PMCID: PMC7067892.