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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Culture Shock: The Impact of Cell Culture-Based Technology in a New World

Since the first maturely successful cell culture in 1951, leading to development of Salk polio vaccine in HeLa cells, technology has proceeded with monumental strides and has played a pivotal role in biotechnology. The acquisition and transformation of immortalised cell lines, such as HeLa, CHO, Hybridoma, Vero, and HEK293, has facilitated profound insight into understanding internal cell pathways, host-pathogen interactions, disease mechanisms, and, eventually has led to the discovery and production of several vaccines and therapeutics. Development of stem cell lines such as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) enabled us to generate various cell lineages, not only for transplant treatments, but also for ex vivo drug screening for toxicity and efficacy evaluations. Last but not least, the innovations in primary cell culture permits extraction of the cells from patients, followed by genetic engineering to correct impaired functions or train them in more efficient ways of battling pathogens or malignant cells. For example, what we see in chimeric antigen receptor T (CAR T) cells or T cell receptor (TCR) engineering technology.

All aforementioned accomplishments were not achievable without optimisation of media to support cell sustenance, growth, and propagation. Technological advancements in analytical equipment facilitate the production of media that are tailored to specific cell types and applications. Cell culture plays a vital role in such diverse applications as vaccine development, biopharmaceutical production, regenerative medicine, assisted reproductive technologies, cell and gene therapy, and basic research. The outcome of patient treatments, the reliability of research results, and the quality of manufactured biopharmaceuticals all heavily depend on the media in which the associated cells were cultured.

Over the past century, cell culture media has gone through numerous transformations, driven primarily by scientific discovery and medical necessity. What began as primitive suspensions of cells in plasma from a common source, evolved into blood serum diluted with salt solutions; however, experiments still suffered from low reproducibility and frequent contamination. Synthetic media was developed and further aseptic techniques were refined, but many cell cultures still required a protein source, most often supplemented by the addition of complete serum or serum albumin.

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Anastassia Tselikova has a degree in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics from UCLA, US. Following an internship at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, she eventually returned to California and joined the cell and gene therapy team at FUJIFILM Irvine Scientific.

Justin Field’s interest in a spectrum of scientific disciplines has led him to positions in microbiology, analytical chemistry, and diagnostic instrument development. He has synergised his work experience to offer something different in his current role of Research Scientist at FUJIFILM Irvine Scientific. In his free time, he is a hobby novelist and artist, and seeks to blend his passion for science and creativity in his career.

Omid Taghavian, PhD, is a Senior Scientist at FUJIFILM Irvine Scientific, leading the Gene Therapy in R&D. His background is molecular biotechnology and has several years of research experience in molecular biology, virology, immunology, and, more specifically, in vaccine development.
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