Cell culture   Leave a comment

Cell culture is a lot like cooking. We keep our cells alive by placing them in warm, dark, and wet conditions (kind of like your insides).

We have several different kinds of cells stored in liquid nitrogen, but most of our experiments are performed on cells originally taken from the kidney of a mouse. Specifically, we primarily culture epithelial cells from the cortical collecting duct.

These cells were originally taken from a mouse over 10 years ago and are essentially cancerous- they will never die unless we kill them.

Cells are placed on a porous membrane, to which they adhere and over time, create a single layer of cells that completely covers the membrane. At this point, one of two things happen: either we ‘passage’ the cells (which lets us grow more and more cells), or we let the cells change from cancerous to normal.

We regularly feed the cells a solution that approximates blood. In fact, purified cow’s blood is an essential component of the solution.

Cells allowed to differentiate (become normal cells) gain several important functions. The ones we are most interested in are the appearance of a primary cilium and presence of a electric potential between the top and bottom of the cells. It is theorized that the primary cilium is the flow sensor, and the electrical potential is an important diagnostic indicator of cell health and normal cell function.

Differentiated cells do not live forever- they are normal cells. We have kept differentiated mouse cells alive for several months. To compare, I have kept human airway epithelial cells alive in culture for *2 years*. Think about that- the person the cells came from died, but their airway cells lived on for an additional 2 years. But I suppose the mouse died 10 years ago. Henrietta Lacks died in 1951, and we have some of her cells, too.

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Posted August 27, 2010 by resnicklab

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