3D Cell Culture Applications: 2021 Virtual Summit | Corning

We may not have been able to gather together in person this year, but the 2021 Virtual 3D Cell Culture Summit was no less of a smash. Featuring 26 speakers who logged in from around the world, the event captured the energy and excitement of the rapidly evolving 3D cell culture movement. Industry leaders exchanged ideas about getting started in 3D, workflow optimizations, and the future of 3D cell culture applications, from spheroids and organoids to tissue models.

Now available on demand, the two-day seminar, with all its recorded talks and insights, can be accessed online along with a preview video about the event. While all of the sessions are worth a watch, these four takeaways in particular leave a lasting impression about the future implications of 3D cell culture research.

1. Organoids have helped usher in new SARS-CoV-2 drug candidates.

One presentation at the summit underscored the potential of human pluripotent stem-cell-derived organoids to help address viral diseases such as COVID-19 through disease modeling and drug screening.

Shuibing Chen, Ph.D. (Kilts Family associate professor and director of the Diabetes program at Weill Cornell Medicine, Department of Surgery), explored 3D models as a platform for systematically evaluating tropism and cellular response upon viral infection. After developing a panel of hPSC-derived cells and organoids and screening ten different types, Dr. Chen and team found that lung, colon, heart, liver, and pancreatic cells could be infected by the novel coronavirus.

In doing so, the team reported the first organoid-based screen and identified several drug candidates blocking viral entry of SARS-CoV-2. One of those identified drugs, imatinib, is currently in phase 2/3 clinical trials.

2. Organoids are personalized medicine's version of avatars.

Given their potential in helping to mimic in vivo conditions, organoids have become particularly useful in preclinical and translational research. A panel discussion of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center researchers reviewed those valuable applications in personalized medicine, citing early and current successes of organoids as well as their evolution into more complex models for anticancer and personalized therapies.

In this way, these 3D models have become akin to personalized medicine's version of patient avatars. These miniature versions of functioning organs create in vivo-like systems for drug response testing all within reproducible in vitro platforms.

As part of the conversation, speakers also discussed the advantages and challenges of organoid models, including model validations. In accordance with previous research, validation is particularly important given challenges with scalable production of these complex but powerful cultures.

3. Bioengineering enables more than we ever thought possible for immune-oncology.

With the advent of bioengineered tissue platforms, scientists have a new world of opportunities for modeling human pathophysiology and for testing drug efficacy and safety. This was the subject of a presentation given by Kacey Ronaldson-Bouchard, Ph.D., an associate research scientist at Columbia University, who spoke about her team's newly developed biomimetic InterOrgan platform.

In this platform, matured human tissues are connected such that all organs retain their distinct functionalities. While each tissue is cultured in its own optimized environment, the whole is integrated through a recirculating vascular flow with monocytes by a matured and selectively permeable endothelial barrier.

Over four weeks of culturing, the differentiated yet integrated tissues maintained their molecular, structural, and functional phenotypes, indicating their potential durability and reliability in immune-oncology applications.

That said, just because you can engineer and build it, doesn't mean you should. As Dr. Ronaldson-Bouchard cautions:

"You should always be cognizant of what the end goal is and then design your organoid-on-chip to meet that goal," she said. "You're always balancing engineering and complexity because you want a robust model that can give you reproducible results, but you also want it to be physiologically complex. [Figure] out how complex you need it, and then involve patient-specific predictions using patient cells to do drug screening and disease modeling to try to find the best drug for you."

4. Optimizing stem cell microenvironments could help promote organoid performance.

Though stem cells offer astounding potential in regenerative medicine, their sensitivity to microenvironmental changes has always been a challenge with regard to organ generation.

In one talk, Nicholas Aznar, Ph.D., from the Cancer Research Center of Lyon, France, discussed a standardization system for refining the optimal cellular microenvironment conditions needed to ensure long-term, high-quality stem cells. With these conditions in place, researchers have the potential to improve organoid technology, reliability, and performance.

Many more insightful takeaways about the advantages of 3D cell culture applications await in our on-demand library, which features all sessions from both days of the event. Event attendees can access the content here.