Lately, animal and human cell cultures are remarkable methods used in various branches of basic sciences, having broad spectrum of applications through disease modeling, IVF technology, cancer research, stem cell biology, regenerative medicine, and therapeutic protein production. However, some important discoveries tracing back to the Aristotelian theory of spontaneous generation to Louis Pasteur’s experiments, Carrel’s cell culture techniques to large-scale cultures for production of proteins, foreseeing applications of regenerative medicine and in situ bio-printing of wounds lead to an innovative era of transformation in our knowledge of cells.
The first immortalized human cell line was experimentally produced in 1951, from cells collected from Henrietta Lacks, a patient with an aggressive form of cervical cancer. During those times, coaxing cells to keep dividing ex vivo was a major achievement. Today, there are thousands of human cell lines across the globe contributing to the field of biomedical research. Recent market analysis reports have estimated cell culture market value at more than $12 billion with exponential growth, particularly in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors. These predictions are based on the transposition of high-throughput approaches over manual experiments, a substantial increase in funding, regulatory support for cell-based research, and increased incidence of chronic diseases.
In Pharma pipelines, human cells are being used for generating data on the effects of compounds or interactions between different drugs across diverse cell profiles. High-throughput techniques can further be employed to enhance further processes. With the development of stem-cell based therapies and immunotherapy, scientists are now employing primary cells to comprehend how to alter the patient’s own cells and monitor the differentiation of induced pluripotent stem cells. For all these methods, optimum conditions for the maintenance of cultures for relevant results will lead to new treatments.
With the widespread use of cell lines in drug discovery and development, pharmaceutical and biotech companies are heavily investing to make significant improvements in cell-based results. Important innovations have changed the traditional cataloging for cell lines to next-gem incubators for example at Bayer, specifically designed to intricately represent cell’s microenvironment. Genentech, in 2014, was awarded for developing a new system for effective management of hundreds of cell lines, and recently, the company introduced standards for quality control and testing for contamination of these cells. Genentech’s gCell system stores history of its more than 1,800 cell lines, their tracking information and bioinformatics platform for discerning every cell line.
Immunotherapy is one of the critical realms to have maximum potential through cell-based researches. Immunodeficient mouse models used for preclinical testing of investigational oncologic drugs make it nearly impossible to test whether these therapies can stimulate the immune system. Extracting relevant biological information from human co-culture models would be a promising alternative for immunotherapeutic applications.
Above mentioned and various other efforts to enhance cell culture methodology by producing biologically relevant results provide strong foundations for future drug discoveries. With an advanced understanding of various factors that affect cell function, pharma and biotech companies can look forward to creative approaches and unconventional technologies that would aid to overcome limitations that have reduced the accuracy of cell studies. However, it is truly stimulating to be a part of an innovative era that can potentially transform the biomedical community.