In 2020, the pandemic caught us off guard and people across the globe suffered. What is termed an incredible feat, we had the vaccines available for the public within a year. But have you wondered why it took such a long time to develop and approve a specific drug against COVID-19? Even in the case of other deadly diseases like cancer, which claims countless lives every year, the failure rate of drugs in clinical trials is 97%. That means 97 percent of the time that a new drug is tested in a clinical trial for a particular type of cancer, it never makes it to the market. 

In this feature, we learn why this is the case. Drug discovery against a specific disease starts with screening thousands of molecules to choose possible drug candidates which are tested on animals before moving to clinical trials. As animals are not a sustainable model to screen drugs, the alternative is to screen and test these drugs on cells grown as single sheets on surfaces in labs (2D culture). The major drawback of these systems is that they do not represent the complexity, structure, and functioning of actual human tissues or organs. This makes them unreliable and unpredictable which ultimately leads to a high failure rate in clinical trials.

Modern medicine, thus requires new efficient tools to battle the menace of diseases. This makes 3D cell cultures very important as they represent an in-vitro system with in-vivo characteristics, which means it carries advantages offered by both 2D systems and animal models. They offer a sustainable platform for a range of applications in biomedical research like drug-based investigations and tumor research. Developments and innovations in 3D cell cultures will soon promote it as a mainstream tool in research. This would highly benefit society to tackle the severity of deadly diseases.