The first step to mastering cell culturing

The first step to mastering cell culturing

The first step to mastering cell culturing

What is a cell culture?

When talking about cell culture, it is usually referred to as growing cells from different tissues in a laboratory under controlled conditions. The terminology in cell culture can sometimes be confusing, so let’s quickly go through it. 

Primary culture is a stage at which the cells have just been isolated from the tissue. The cells are first treated either mechanically or enzymatically before cultivation. After the cells are grown under controlled conditions until the medium is depleted and cells reach confluence. Once this happens they need to be subcultured or passaged in a new flask with a fresh medium. At the moment of the first passage, the primary culture becomes a cell line. Cell lines need to be continuously passaged, otherwise, the cells get too crowded. 

What is it used for?

Cell culture is a widely used approach and for a good reason! It is an excellent model system for studying fundamental cellular and molecular mechanisms, as well as for applied research, such as drug development. It is useful also as a production system for various biopharmaceuticals, vaccines, and therapeutic recombinant proteins.

First look at a cell culture laboratory

If you could describe a cell culture lab with one word, it would definitely be CLEAN. This describes not only how the space looks but also, how you handle all your materials and most importantly cells! 

Once walk around a bit, you will notice one thing that is usually not present in normal labs, and that is a cell culture hood. This hood represents your working area where you, prepare your media, handle all your materials, and work with cells. They are essential for providing aseptic conditions that protect your cells from contamination. This is possible because all the air is filtered through HEPA filters and a constant flow is maintained, which prevents dust to enter. 

A cell culture hood should always be kept clean and uncluttered. This leaves you enough space to work and also reduces the chance of contamination. Usually, the equipment you will use in the cell culture hood will look something like this:

Next, to cell culture hoods, you will also find incubators. This is where your cells will spend most of the time. Incubators provide an appropriate environment for cell growth and proliferation. 

How to work with cells?

As you might have guessed, you need to work with cells in a sterile manner. The success of keeping your culture alive depends on keeping the cells away from contamination. The contamination source can vary from bacteria to viruses, fungi, mycoplasma, and even to cross-contamination with other mammalian cells. This is also one characteristic that all cell culture labs have in common – being free of pathogens.

If you see signs of contamination (cloudy liquid, smell, particles) in your media or reagents discard them appropriately.

Luckily we have some tips for you on what the best way to work is – keep a sterile working area, as well as sterile reagents and media, and maintain good personal hygiene. We have prepared a checklist to help you get used to aseptic technique work, just until it becomes second nature to you 😊 Just click on the checklist image with the right mouse button and select "Save image as".

All of these steps, even though they might seem excessive, help prevent contamination and ensure your experiment can be finished without problems!