Cell culture applications

Before you decide to use cell culture as an object or research tool, you must make sure that the benefits that you get will outweigh the difficulties associated with this method.

Some benefits of cell culture:

The main advantage of cultured cells is the ability to observe cells in vivo using a microscope.

It is essential that when working with cell cultures, healthy cells are used in the experiment, and they remain viable throughout the entire experiment. In experiments on a whole animal, the state of the kidneys, for example, can be assessed only at the end of the experiment, and, moreover, usually only qualitatively.

Cell cultures are a genetically homogeneous population of cells that grow under constant conditions. Moreover, the researcher can change these conditions within certain limits, which allows him to assess the effect on cell growth of various factors - pH, temperature, concentration of amino acids, vitamins, etc. Growth can be assessed over a short period of time or by an increase in the number or size cells, or by incorporating radioactive precursors into cellular DNA.

These real advantages over whole animal studies put cell culture as an experimental system on a par with microbial culture.

Moreover, when working with cell cultures, significant results can be obtained using a very small number of cells. Experiments requiring the use of 100 rats or 1000 people to clarify a particular issue can be performed with equal statistical reliability on 100 cultures on coverslips. Hence, one cell can replace an entire clinic of patients. This is an important advantage when it comes to humans and, moreover, removes many of the ethical problems that arise when it comes to using a large group of animals for an experiment.

Since cells in culture are readily available for various biochemical manipulations, when working with them, radioactive precursors, poisons, hormones, etc. can be introduced at a given concentration and for a given period. The amount of these compounds can be an order of magnitude less than in experiments on a whole animal. The danger that the test compound is metabolized by the liver, stored in the muscles or excreted by the kidneys also disappears. When using cell cultures, as a rule, it is easy to establish that, at a certain concentration, the substance added to the culture is in contact with the cells for a given period of time. This provides real values ​​for the rate of incorporation or metabolism of the compounds under study.

Cell culture is used in various scientific and practical fields:

  • Genetics

The ability of cells to grow in culture has led to the development of the following methods:

  • Cloning
  • Cell storage and fusion
  • Obtaining and working with mutant cells
  • Immunology. 

Hybridoma technology:

cells that synthesize antibodies of interest to scientists are subjected to fusion with myeloma cells, which produce antibodies with unknown specificity.

The resulting hybridomas made it possible to establish the production of monoclonal antibodies: a mouse is immunized with a crude antigen preparation and then its spleen cells hybridize with myeloma cells. Among the resulting hybrid cells, there is at least one that produces antibodies specific to the original antigen.


Cell cultures can be a valuable source of hormones and other secreted materials. Cell cultures are already becoming important producers of the species-specific antiviral agent interferon.

Virology and cell transformation:

Progress in virology is largely driven by the ability to grow viruses in cell cultures. 

As a result of the application of these methods, it turned out that viruses can not only infect and kill cells, but can also cause changes in the nature of cell growth - a phenomenon known as viral cell transformation. These changes, leading to the appearance of cells that do not respond to their neighbors in the way that is characteristic of untransformed cells, are of particular interest due to the fact that they can help to understand the nature of transformation, since similar changes occurring with cells in vitro play a certain role in tumor induction.

Since most viral diseases are currently treated by the administration of antisera, the cultivation of viruses is important both for the identification of viruses and for their use in vaccine production.

These tasks are solved mainly using cell cultures.