The cells in the two panels above are the same cultured K562 cells in photomicrographs taken hours apart – except that the cells aren’t really the same, are they?
Living cells just don’t stay the same over time. In fact, central to the very definition of “life” is the ability to change and grow.
Looking at the cells above from their point of view, three out of the four original cells have clearly divided, so their needs in culture have now changed. The cells, as a population, need more nutrients, more oxygen, and they need more wastes removed. In a few days, they will be subcultured to keep them growing in what would otherwise have been suboptimal conditions. We can anticipate that cells will have these needs, so we plan to subculture them.
In a typical incubator, cells experience controlled temperature and carbon dioxide levels. However, as we saw in the last post, cells can be out of optimum for long periods of time when handled in a room air biological safety cabinet (BSC).
There are many other factors that are critical for cells. The role of physiologic oxygen in cell culture should not be underestimated.
What is physiologic oxygen?
From a cell’s point of view in passive culture, at any one time it lives in one of four environments or states:
2. Manual Manipulation (in biosafety cabinet, glove box, lab bench, etc…)
3. Machine Processing (centrifugation, mixing, flow cytometric sorting, etc…)
4. In Transport (between states 1, 2,or 3)
The best environment for in vitro cell growth is also a favorable environment for microbial growth. Peoplecentric work environments include hoods, waterbaths and incubators that open into room air. In all of these spaces, cells and their culture vessels are exposed to airborne and people-borne contaminants.
The Cytocentric approach provides full-time protection for cells from microbial contamination by physically separating cell cultures from potential contaminants. These include closed systems like barrier isolators that prevent room air contact with cell cultures.
Cy·to·cen·tric, adj. 1. Taking the cells’ point of view in the laboratory and putting their needs first. Antonym. Peoplecentric. Taking a person’s point of view in the laboratory and putting their needs first.
Cells cultured in vitro are critical to modern medical research across every subject area.
What do cells need outside of the body?
Think about what is in your lab and whether it is Cytocentric or Peoplecentric.
Do cells need the tables and chairs? Do cells need 21% oxygen?