Scientists at Durham University have developed a method of routinely growing stem cells in conditions similar to the human body.
Key sources of stem cells are adult organs or embryonic cells
The new technology allows the cells to be grown on a small polystyrene scaffold, rather than on the flat surface of a Petri dish.
It is hoped the process will increase the success rate of drug tests.
The university said existing 3D methods of growing stem cells were complex and prohibitively expensive.
Dr Stefan Przborski, a senior researcher at Durham University, said: "Our results suggest that testing drugs on liver cells using our 3D culture system may be more likely to reflect true physiological responses to toxic substances.
"Because the 3D cells are cultivated under more realistic conditions, it means that they function more like real tissues."
Using the Durham University technology, cells are grown on a scaffold the size of a 10p piece made out of highly-porous polystyrene, and which looks like a thin white disc.
The design, which has been patented by the university and its company ReInnervate, has the structure of a sponge and allows cells to develop in the holes inside.
A study of the effectiveness of the technology appears in today's Journal of Anatomy.