Primary Cell Cultures and Immortal Cell Lines

Abstract

Primary cell cultures can be established from tissue explants or, more usually, from disaggregated tissue samples. Cells that can be subcultured many times are called cell lines and examples have been isolated from diverse tissues and cell types. Continuous cell lines of unlimited lifespan can be generated by means of a number of immortalization techniques, although in most cases such cell lines have arisen spontaneously.

Keywords: primary cells; cell lines; immortalization; in vitro cell culture; standardization

Figure 1.

Typical appearance of the graph of additional cumulative population doublings of the finite cell line MRC‐5 from a starting culture at population doubling number 40 compared with a continuous cell line (e.g. HeLa). S indicates the onset of senescence.

Figure 2.

A typical master cell bank and working cell bank system (circles represent ampoules of preserved cells). Preparation of cell banks in this way ensures that all cultures provided from the working banks are identical in terms of subculture history (i.e. ‘age’). This type of system used in bona fide culture collections is a key component in promoting standardization in biological research and biotechnology. Reproduced with permission from Cryo Letters.

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Further Reading

Schaeffer WI (1990) Nomenclature of cells in culture. In vitro 26: 39–63.

Stacey GN, Doyle A and Hambleton PH (1998) Safety in Cell and Tissue Culture. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic.

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Stacey, Glyn(Jan 2006) Primary Cell Cultures and Immortal Cell Lines. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0003960]