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April 01, 2011 (Vol. 31, No. 7)

Monitoring Cell Growth in Microplates

Robust Microplate Reader Can Be a Valuable Source of Essential Information

  • Many biotechnology applications use the ability to multiply a single cell type or organism to create a pure culture for downstream operations. Accurately monitoring cellular growth in culture ensures that the necessary population exists to provide sufficient biomass for downstream applications.

    Bacteria, yeast, plant, fungi, and mammalian cells are used extensively in areas such as vaccine development, molecular biology, genetics, drug discovery and development, and in bioproduction. Methods have been developed to allow mass culture of many specialized cell types including those used to produce biological agents using recombinant DNA technology and to study signal transduction and cellular toxicity.

    Bacteria are relatively simple, robust organisms that reproduce quickly, are cost-effective to grow and maintain, and are easy to manipulate. As such, bacteria have traditionally been considered the workhorses for many biological applications.

    Yeast strains are significantly more complex than bacteria, but still divide rapidly and are also relatively simple to maintain. As their physiology is more complex, yeast may be a more suitable model than bacteria for some preliminary studies targeted at better understanding mammalian systems. Mammalian cells are considerably more expensive to expand and maintain in culture, requiring complex media and special care to prevent contamination.

    Mammalian cells can provide a more relevant background for a wide variety of biological studies. However, once cultured in vitro, the original tissue’s architecture is lost, and the cell’s normal behaviors and functions may change considerably or disappear. Yet, the ability to culture relevant mammalian cell lines remains the gold standard for many current research and development efforts in the biological sciences and in biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.

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