When cells are cultured in vitro, they need to attach to a substrate that will aid their structure, function and survival. Often a solid surface such as polystyrene is used for culturing cells, however, the density of the material doesn’t allow them to effectively uptake and secrete molecules needed for growth.
In their native state, cells are exposed to different environments. But during culture, the basal surface is attached to the substrate, so it isn’t exposed to the media. A solution to this problem is to use a porous membrane that allows media to enter from both the basal and apical surface, resulting in a better representation of the cell’s natural environment.
On a different level
With modern porous membrane inserts, you have the flexibility to expose the upper and lower compartment of the well to various conditions. This feature is particularly useful when working with polarized cell types, such as kidney cells, that require different environmental conditions on either surface.
The ability to separate compartments also enables you to perform cell invasion assays commonly used in cancer research. The migratory ability of cells can be assessed by blocking the pores in the membrane with a layer of extracellular matrix (ECM) gel, and then measuring the number that move into the lower compartment in response to the chemo-attractant.
Porous membranes can also be used for co-culture studies to see how different cell types respond to the same environment. This method is great for cell signaling studies, and enables you to analyze how the cells interact with each other and their substrate. The insert’s built-in compartments confine each cell type within the defined space, preventing direct cell-to-cell contact.
While the dual compartment system of modern inserts diversifies culture techniques, the porosity of the membrane is the key to better understanding complex cellular processes. By utilizing a surface that closely mimics in vivo conditions, cells are more likely to carry out cellular and metabolic activities as they would in their natural environment.
Looking for additional information?
Get additional insights into the benefits of porous membranes, including compelling case study findings that clearly demonstrate the advantages by viewing the ondemand webinar anytime, titled: Versatile is smart! The power behind culturing cells on a porous membrane.