A few days ago, I talked about HeLa cells and their enormous contribution in basic sciences as well as in biomedical research. Their development also allowed to better understand the essential requirements for the development of new cell lines and models. This has save time, resources and increase the reproducibility of the assays. However, the new knowledge of cell biology has also shown how important is the micro environment for cell development. Organs and tissues are not typically composed of a homogeneous cell population, but rather are complex structures with intricate relations between vessels, nerves, extracellular matrix, etc. To better understand these complex interactions, a two-dimensional model (cell monolayer) is not always the best option. And it is precisely here, where the "three-dimensional cell cultures" or "spheroids" can be very useful. This 3D arrangement allows cells to interact with each other and with the extracellular matrix in a more natural way, providing a better representation of reality. Under these conditions, cells are also subject to the restrictions and mechanical effects of the environment, factors that are key for cancer research and the development of stem cells, to name a few.
Thanks to new technologies, researchers have been able to study entire spheroids, as well as subpopulations and even individual cells within a colony. In particular, the ability of spheroids to mimic a true tumor has been an important contribution in the discovery and development of more effective drugs.
So spheroids, together with other techniques, have helped us to go one step further in the titanic task of understanding complex systems.
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