Disease Modeling

What is Disease Modeling?

Disease modeling is a fundamental aspect of biomedical research, encompassing the creation of representative systems that mimic the behavior of diseases in a controlled environment. These models help researchers gain insights into the underlying mechanisms of diseases, test the effectiveness of potential therapies, and ultimately pave the way for improved patient care.

Disease model systems range in complexity and scale from simple 2D cell cultures to complex model organisms. While model organisms offer in vivo context, they are often costly and may not represent human biology. On the other hand, while traditional 2D cell culture systems have been used for many years, they have limitations in representing the complex three-dimensional structure and cellular interactions found in living tissues. As a result, 3D cell cultures have emerged as an attractive model system for disease modeling.

Types of human-relevant 3D cell culture models

There are various types of 3D cell models used for disease modeling and drug discovery, including spheroids, organoids, and organ-on-a-chip. Each type of 3D cell model has its own unique advantages, and the choice of specific 3D models depends on the specific research needs. By using these human-relevant 3D cell models, researchers can study the effects of different treatments on disease progression, identify potential drug candidates, and understand disease mechanisms.

  • Spheroids – Spheroids are cell aggregates that self-assemble in specific environments (eg. When seeded in plates coated with low attachment surfaces). Depending on the cell type used, the resulting spheroid can model various tissues, such as the liver, breast, and pancreatic tissue or specific cancer tissues. They are the simplest type of 3D cell model, usually made up of only a single cell type. Spheroids take less time to grow, making them relatively easy to work with. However, they lack the structural complexity that other 3D models offer. They can be generated from cancer cells or induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and used to study cancer progression, drug resistance, and toxicity.
  • Organoids – Organoids are 3D structures that mimic the structure and function of specific organs or tissues, such as the brain, kidney, and gut. They can be generated from iPSCs or adult stem cells and used to study disease mechanisms and test the efficacy of different treatments. Because they are derived from human tissues, they provide a better representation of the disease.
  • Patient-derived organoids (or Tumoroids) - Patient-derived organoids (PDOs) are 3D cell structures cultivated from tissue samples of both healthy and diseased tissue, representing a "patient in a dish." PDOs closely resemble the genetics, structure, and heterogeneity of cell types found in the patient's tissue. This heightened resemblance and improved translatability make PDOs a valuable resource for disease research and drug development.
  • Organ-on-a-chip – These models involve using microfluidic systems to simulate the functions of different organs, such as the heart, liver, and lung, in a single device. They can be used to study disease progression and test the efficacy of different drugs and treatments.
  • 3D Bioprinting – Bioprinting is a relatively new technique that uses 3D printing technology to create complex biological structures, such as tissues and organs, from living cells and biomaterials. Bioprinting has emerged as a promising tool in disease modeling because it allows researchers to create precise and reproducible models of complex biological systems, which can be used to study the mechanisms of disease progression and test the efficacy of different treatments.
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