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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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Filter-well Technology for Advanced Three-dimensional Cell Culture: Perspectives for Respiratory Research

Kelly BéruBé, Aldo Pitt, Patrick Hayden, Zoë Prytherch and Claire Job

Cell culture has long been a valuable tool for studying cell behaviour. Classical plastic substrates are two-dimensional, and usually promote cellular proliferation and inhibit differentiation. Understanding cell behaviour within complex multicellular tissues requires the systematic study of cells within the context of specific model microenvironments. A model system must mimic, to a certain degree, the in vivo situation, but, at the same time, can significantly reduce its complexity. There is increasing agreement that moving up to the third dimension provides a more physiologically-relevant and predictive model system. Moreover, many cellular processes (morphogenesis, organogenesis and pathogenesis) have been confirmed to occur exclusively when cells are ordered in a three-dimensional (3-D) manner. In order to achieve the desired in vivo phenotype, researchers can use microporous membranes for improved in vitro cell culture experiments. In the present review, we discuss the applications of filter-well technology for the advanced 3-D cell culture of human pulmonary cells.