Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.
What is a Cell Culture?
Did you know that cells of various organisms can be grown in the lab? Yep. This is known as cell culture. Cell culture is the process of obtaining cells from a plant or animal and then growing them in an artificial environment.
Cell cultures can become contaminated but, luckily, these various forms of contamination can be detected. In this lesson, we are going to go over the types of cell culture contamination and how they can be spotted.
Types of Cell Culture Contamination
The two main forms of cell culture contamination are chemical and biological.
Chemical cell culture contamination refers to the adulteration of a cell culture with nonliving substances that have a negative impact on the culture system. What could these substances be or where might they be found? Chemical contamination can occur in:
- Media, the growth medium used in the cell culture. This is where the majority of chemical contaminants are likely to be found.
- Water. Improperly purified water, which can also actually be overly pure water. Highly pure water is actually very reactive and can cause the leaching of toxic chemicals from the equipment used to create and maintain cell cultures.
- Some types of serum, a protein-rich liquid.
- Endotoxins, which are toxins of Gram-negative bacteria.
- Free radicals that are generated when some types of media are exposed to fluorescent lights.
- Heavy metals.
- Plasticizer from plastic storage vessels and tubing.
- Detergents and disinfectants left on equipment.
The other major type of cell culture contamination comes from biological cell culture contamination, which is the adulteration of cell cultures via living organisms, such as:
- Cross-contamination from other cell lines
The sources of these biological contaminants include everything from improperly disinfected supplies and media to airborne particles.
Identifying Cell Culture Contamination
Biological cell culture contamination can be detected via numerous strategies. Some of these strategies include:
- Visual inspection with the naked eye. For example, the presence of a cloudy film may indicate bacterial contamination.
- Microscopic examination (including electron microscopy), which can help reveal the presence of many different kinds of unwanted contaminants, including bacteria, viruses, and yeast.
- Testing the pH. For instance, heavy contamination by yeast may increase the pH of the culture while bacterial contamination can decrease the pH.
- More advanced testing, such as ELISA, or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, in which proteins called antibodies attach to antigens (the potential contaminants) to reveal the presence of the latter.
Detecting chemical contamination is usually a lot more difficult than detecting biological contamination. Commonly, it boils down to a process of elimination. If biological contamination has been ruled out via detection methods such as the ones noted above, then chemical contamination becomes a real possibility.
Once suspected, the identification of a chemical contaminant may need to proceed in a step-wise fashion, where every possible chemical contaminant is addressed and tested for. For example, the purity of the water may need to be tested, or a comparison experiment may be established between different media, solutions, and so on.
Cell culture is the process of obtaining cells from a plant or animal and then growing them in an artificial environment. Cell cultures can be contaminated via chemical cell culture contamination, the contamination of cell culture with nonliving substances like heavy metals, detergents, toxins, and so on. Cell cultures can also be contaminated with biological cell culture contaminants, living organisms, like bacteria, yeast, and fungi.
Biological cell culture contaminants can be spotted visually, via microscopes, by testing for pH, or advanced tests such as ELISA. Chemical cell culture contaminants are more difficult to identify and may necessitate the testing of everything from the water used for impurities to running comparison experiments that rule out every possible step where contamination may have occurred.
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack