The main goal of slice culture is to develop an efficient and robust ex vivo model which bridges the gap between in vitro cell culture studies and in vivo animal model studies. The majority of current fundamental investigations of human biology and preclinical drug development involve the use of two-dimensional monolayer in vitro cell culture models. Drug failures in the clinic may in part be due to the fact that these preclinical models do not represent the complexity (heterogeneity) that is observed in human tissue. Monolayer cell culture technique lacks all essential cellular functions that are present in normal living tissues. In vitro cell culture does not accurately recapitulate the structure, function, physiology of living tissues, as well as highly complex and dynamic three-dimensional (3D) environments in vivo. There exist clear fundamental differences between cell culture monolayers versus 3D configuration in terms of access to soluble factors, distribution and types of cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions. Conventional two 2D cell culture systems grown on artificial plastic surface have major limitation, such as they require more fetal bovine serum (FBS) and refeeding by changing medium every 2-3 days. In contrast to that, 3D culture technique avoids plastic surface and less FBS. Fewer amounts of FBS improve the sensitivity of drug against those particular organs.
Moving from cell monolayers to three-dimensional (3D) cultures is motivated by the need to work with cellular models that mimic the functions of living tissues. Organ-derived organotypic slice cultures provide a unique tool to study tissue responses to various stimuli, including drugs and irradiation. The open system allows direct access and the option to collect samples from media over time. At the end of the experiment, slices can be embedded in paraffin for histological analysis such as immune cytochemistry for the detection of DNA damage after irradiation, apoptosis, or proliferation markers.
It is anticipated that the wider adoption of organotypic 3D slice cultures will help in drug development. It also helps to investigate a wide spectrum of toxicity in liver, kidney, cardiac and neurological conditions in both academia and industry. Therefore, there is a high potential of 3D slice culture to generate a significant impact for drug development and will also decrease the use of laboratory animals, for example, in the context of toxicity assays.