Although conventional cell line panels and conventional monolayer cell-based testing offers simplicity, and high throughput and statistical power, these models may not contain enough complexity to give the predictive data which is required for functional validation. The main reason for this failure is the lack of specific control of cultured cells to present an accurate model of their in-vivo counterparts. Research has shown that by engineering the materials and cellular environment at the micron-scale, the resulting cell-based systems will better mimic the in-vivo behaviour of the respective tissue, potentially leading to a significant reduction in drug discovery cost as a result of the increased predictive accuracy of the model.
Our research team is currently developing a microfluidic platform technology for creating repeatable and software configurable three-dimensional (3D) tissue constructs through dispensing of controlled numbers of cells or cellular aggregates as monocultures or co-cultures in hydrogel, in well-defined spatial organization within the wells of standard high throughput screen plates. These 3D tissue constructs are expected to provide an improved physiological model when compared to current in-vitro two-dimensional (2D) cell cultures, and therefore, should provide more meaningful results. This new technology will enable further narrowing down of drug candidates prior to clinical trials, compared to current methods, and a reduction in the cost of the most expensive step of drug development. In future, the use of such 3D in vitro cell-based constructs may reduce the need for animal testing during the drug development process.