Difference Between 2D and 3D Cell Culture l 2D vs 3D Cell Culture

The key difference between 2D and 3D cell culture is that the 2D cell culture uses an artificial flat surface, typically a petri dish or a cell culture plate while the 3D cell culture uses a substrate that mimics the extracellular matrix of that particular cell type.

Cell culture is the process that grows cells under controlled conditions generally outside their natural environment. 2D and 3D cell culture are of two types. Both 2D and 3D cell culture systems are highly useful in in-vitro testing of therapeutics, drugs and other biochemically active compound and can be regarded as an alternative towards animal testing. These two culture systems differ from each other by the cell adherence surface.


1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is 2D Cell Culture
3. What is 3D Cell Culture
4. Similarities Between 2D and 3D Cell Culture
5. Side by Side Comparison – 2D vs 3D Cell Cultures in Tabular Form
6. Summary

What is 2D Cell Culture?

2D cell culture is one of the most practised forms of cell culture as it is less laborious in nature. During 2D cell culturing, a monolayer cell culture establishes on a cell culture flask or a petri dish. Furthermore, the 2D cell culturing does not maintain suspension cultures. Also, as the growth is only on a flat monolayer surface, there is a limit on cell morphology in 2D cell culturing. Thus, the cells receive a homogenous quantity of nutrients, and therefore, the cells usually appear as flat cells.

Similarly, it is easy to remove the cells as the cells only exist in a monolayer. Therefore, the cells will not behave as the cells would have been in its normal environmental condition. Due to this fact, we cannot well analyse the processes such as cell proliferation, apoptosis and differentiation in 2D cell culture systems. In contrast, we can analyse the experiments in relation to the bioactivity of a compound and biochemical reactions via 2D cell cultures.

What is 3D Cell Culture?

3D cell culturing uses a 3-dimensional artificial matrix that has customized to mimic the native environment of the cells. Thus, the cells grow like when they are in their natural environments, and the cells show a good potential to grow, proliferate and differentiate without any restrictions. Thus, we can use this method to study the cell’s behavior and the responses of the cells in its own environmental conditions.

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