Berkeley Lab Research on Three-Dimensional Cell Culture Featured in Nature


Much research in the life sciences involves culturing cells in the laboratory using a growth medium in which the cells arrange themselves in flat two-dimensional (2-D) layers. But cells in living organisms are arranged in three dimensional complexes (3-D). Research by Mina Bissell and colleagues at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) has pioneered ways to culture cells in the laboratory in a 3-D arrangement enabling studies of how cells behave in the organism. They have used these 3-D culture conditions to show how normal and breast cancer cells differ in 3-D, to screen for environmental insults and drugs to reverse the malignant phenotype, and to show that cells in 3-D cultures can have significantly different responses to antibodies from those of the same cells in 2-D cultures. The LBNL research is described in a feature article (“Biology’s new dimension”) in the August 21, 2003, issue of Nature. The article discusses findings at LBNL on the behavior of breast cancer cells and includes a photograph of the laboratory where the research is being done.