Studying host-pathogen interactions in 3-D: Organotypic models for infectious disease and drug development

Cheryl Nickerson, Emily G. Richter, C. Mark Ott

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Representative, reproducible, and high-throughput models of human cells and tissues are critical for a meaningful evaluation of host-pathogen interactions and are an essential component of the research developmental pipeline. The most informative infection models-animals, organ explants, and human trials-are not suited for extensive evaluation of pathogenesis mechanisms and screening of candidate drugs. At the other extreme, more cost-effective and accessible infection models such as conventional cell culture and static coculture may not capture physiological and three-dimensional (3-D) aspects of tissue biology that are important in assessing pathogenesis, effectiveness, and cytotoxicity of therapeutics. Our lab has used innovative bioengineering technology to establish biologically meaningful 3-D models of human tissues that recapitulate many aspects of the differentiated structure and function of the parental tissue in vivo, and we have applied these models to study infectious disease. We have established a variety of different 3-D models that are currently being used in infection studies-including small intestine, colon, lung, placenta, bladder, periodontal ligament, and neuronal models. Published work from our lab has shown that our 3-D models respond to infection with bacterial and viral pathogens in ways that reflect the infection process in vivo. By virtue of their physiological relevance, 3-D cell cultures may also hold significant potential as models to provide insight into the neuropathogenesis of HIV infection. Furthermore, the experimental flexibility, reproducibility, cost efficiency, and high-throughput platform afforded by these 3-D models may have important implications for the design and development of drugs with which to effectively treat neurological complications of HIV infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)26-31
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2007


  • Drug discovery
  • Host-pathogen interaction
  • Infectious disease
  • Physiologically relevant models
  • Three-dimensional (3-D) cell culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Pharmacology


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