A 3D cell culture is an artificially created environment in which cells are permitted to grow/interact with their surroundings in all three dimensions. Derived from 3D cell culture, organoids are generally small-scale constructs of cells that are fabricated in the laboratory to serve as 3D representations of in vivo tissues and organs.
Due to regulatory, economic and societal issues concerning the use of animals in scientific research, it seems clear that the use of 3D cell culture and organoids in for example early stage studies of drug efficacy and toxicity will increase. The combination of such 3D tissue models with mass spectrometry imaging provides a label-free methodology for the study of drug absorption/penetration, drug efficacy/toxicity, and drug biotransformation. In this article, some of the successes achieved to date and challenges to be overcome before this methodology is more widely adopted are discussed.