Primary Cells- An emerging cell culture technology

Cell culture technology is playing a major role in the advancement of modern biotechnology especially in the area of human health, medicine and pharmaceutical technology. Ideally, the cells used in cell culture systems should mimic those present in vivo, thus primary cells (non-immortalized cells that have recently been removed from an in vivo environment) have gained popularity over cell lines in recent times. This article briefly highlights some of the areas where primary cells can be used.

1. Model system to study cellular behavior

Primary cell cultures are an ideal model system to study cell biology and biochemistry, to study pathogenic disease mechanism, study interaction between cell and disease causing agents like bacteria, virus, to study the drug toxicity for development of new drug molecule or to study the aging process.

2. Toxicity testing and Drug development

The toxicity studies are done to confirm the absence of toxic properties in the development of new drug or chemical. Primary cell culture can be used to study the effects of new drug molecule, cosmetics or any chemical on specific kind of cells like liver cells, lung cell etc.  Primary cells have advantage over cell lines because of their species and organ specific properties. In vitro toxicity testing methods provide more significant data and cost effective method than toxicological studies in living animals.

3. Disease Modeling

Apart from basic research, Primary cells may find applications in many research areas such as cancer, vascular, respiratory, immunology, neurobiology to name a few. The development or progression of diseases can be better understood in primary cells. For example, cells derived from diabetic person will provide more significant knowledge about the disease at cellular level.

4. As a substitute to animal study

The primary cells have potential to deliver more relevant and meaningful data from experiments as these cells are closest to the “real thing”. The proper functional primary cell models can substitute the unnecessary laboratory animal’s usage and reduce the animal experiments.

5. Regenerative medicine

Now days, researchers are exploring the usage of primary cells in the regenerative medicine for reconstruction of diseased or damaged tissue or organs. With the emergence of personalized medicine treatments, primary cells are a useful tool in developing novel cellular therapies. These primary cells or stem cells with scaffold have been used to investigate a number of conditions including neural regeneration, bone marrow replenishment, soft tissue repair, burn therapies, and cardiac therapies.

6. Stem cells

Adult stem cells derived from bone marrow or adipose tissues are cost-effective and potential source for having large numbers of unique cells for differentiation studies or regenerative medicine research.

7. Genetic Engineering

Cultured primary cells can be used to introduce new genetic material like DNA or RNA into the cell and can be genetically altered that can be used to study the expression of new genes and its effect on the health of the cell.

Because of resemblance to in vivo state, primary cells are being used in diverse research areas ranging from basic cell biology and biochemistry to complex biomedical, drug discovery and regenerative medicine.

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