In life sciences, modelling of the in vivo conditions using in vitro models is an important tool to generate knowledge. Although aerobic organisms including mammals depend on accurate oxygen tension, mimicking physiological conditions in cell culture experiments is not very common. Due to the need for simple technical and experimental design, the requirement for simulating the in vivo oxygen tension parameters has been neglected over long time. Fortunately, due to increasing knowledge in recent years the attention has shifted towards this scientific demand. In this short review, we summarize data substantiating the necessity to adequately mimic physiological oxygen tension using cell culture models in life science research. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.