Cell culture techniques have been around since the mid-20th century and the field continues to expand into a range of areas, such as cancer research and drug screening.
It’s likely that you’re already using cell culture as a regular research tool in the lab, but in such a rapidly evolving field it can be difficult to keep up with the latest advancements. Fortunately, we’ve done the legwork and highlighted some of the latest advancements.
The Future of Cancer
There’s no doubt that cancer cells are some of the most complex to culture and traditional monolayer techniques often fail to accurately mimic natural conditions, making it difficult to model the in vivo environment. A better option is to culture these tricky cells in a 3D system, a method that’s becoming increasingly popular for many research applications as it better reflects the in vivo state.
A recent advance in cancer research has been the ability to grow circulating tumor cells from a patient in vitro. These cells are thought to contain important genetic information, and a better understanding of them through this technique could help with personalized cancer treatments.
For many applications, it’s often necessary to use animal models, as cells in culture may not respond as an entire, complex in vivo system would. In the past, animals provided better models, but this balance is slowly shifting towards in vitro models with the expanding possibilities of 3D cell culture. Just recently, scientists managed to manipulate stem cells into mini 3D structures that resemble human lungs. These ‘organoids’, although lacking certain features of a true lung, may serve as a powerful discovery tool for exploring basic clinical questions.
A Fine Line
Another emerging trend is in the application of cell-line engineering to select ‘ideal’ cell characteristics. Recent work has led to development of a new approach employing directed evolution to exploit desired characteristics that are already present in a heterogeneous host cell line. This allowed the group to effectively screen out poor growth, unsuitability to process conditions or even low productivity from subsequent cell line generations!
While these are some of the newer applications, the continued growth of cell culture techniques is driving the demand for, and development of, novel tools that will help to explore the many challenging questions facing research.
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