Mimicking an in vivo environment is one of the most difficult tasks in cell culture, but a CO2 incubator can make the process much easier by maintaining stable environmental conditions. Cells are very sensitive to changes in temperature, pH, and humidity, and constantly opening and closing the door can result in atmospheric fluctuations. These changes can affect cell health, and it’s therefore important to follow a few simple guidelines when looking after your incubator.
Monitor CO2 levels
The CO2 concentration in your incubator must be maintained at around five percent to support optimal cell growth. Whilst most modern incubators have an in-built CO2 sensor, it’s a good idea to use an external gas analyzer to ensure the reading is accurate.
Every lab contains some contaminants, but maintaining sterility levels will minimize the chances of them making their way into your incubator and infecting or disrupting your culture. When cleaning the incubator, make sure the disinfectant you choose doesn’t contain harsh chemicals that could affect the growth of your culture – if you’re unsure, a safe one to use is ammonia.
Inadequate moisture levels can result in many unfavorable scenarios, such as your culture evaporating or the growth media becoming too concentrated. You can prevent this from happening by ensuring sterile distilled water is kept in the tray under the incubator to maintain optimal humidity levels for culture growth.
To ensure your incubator is functioning properly, it’s important to calibrate CO2 levels and temperature regularly. How often you do this depends on use, but a rule of thumb is to recalibrate every month. Refer to the user manual when calibrating, and if you’re unsure of how to do it, you can always get it serviced.
It doesn’t take much for your cells to notice a change in environmental conditions, and if they do, it’s likely to have a pronounced effect on your culture. You can prevent this from happening by following these tips, as well as implementing a systematic cleaning schedule to keep on top of your incubator’s maintenance requirements.
Get the most out of your CO2 incubator by watching our on-demand webinar in The Cell Culture Cafe: Nurture your incubator; nurture your cells. Proper care and “feeding” of your cell culture incubator.