Types of Basic Cell Cultures: A Closer Look at Characteristics and Behavior

types of cell cultures

Learn more about adherent, suspension and feeder cell cultures and how they behave in a lab setting.

cell culture

Cell culture is a common laboratory technique used in various fields of biology and biotechnology to grow cells and maintain them outside their natural environment (in vivo). If you are new to cell culture, review this article to learn more about these three types of cell culture: adherent, suspension and feeder. Each has its own specific characteristic and behavior.

These three types of cell cultures are also used for different purposes. Suspension cultures are often employed for the large-scale production of proteins, antibodies, and other biologics. Adherent cultures are used for studying cell behavior in a more natural microenvironment or for specific applications like tissue engineering. Feeder cells provide physical support to help the cell cultures adhere and grow. Let’s review what each of these cell cultures are and discuss their characteristics and behavior.

An in-depth review of adherent, suspension and feeder cell cultures

What is adherent cell culture?

Adherent cells require a surface to attach to for growth. They are typically cultured in petri dishes or cell culture flasks coated with a substrate like gelatin, collagen, or extracellular matrix proteins. They are grown in a controlled environment and used to study various cellular processes, conduct experiments, and develop therapies. Examples include fibroblasts, epithelial cells, and endothelial cells. Many types of cells in the human body are adherent cells. Adherent cell cultures are like growing cells in a special environment in a lab. Imagine you have tiny cells that you want to study or use for experiments. These cells need a place to stick and grow, just like plants need soil.

The different characteristics and behavior of adherent cell culture

Adherent cells may form distinct cell-cell junctions, organize into tissue-like structures, and respond to mechanical cues from their environment. As they do this, they will migrate. This is known as cell migration. The adherent cells spread and flatten out to maximize contact with the surface. They move across the substrate by extending cell protrusions. They also divide and proliferate while attached to the surface. These cells will fill the container in which they are growing. Once they’ve filled the container, you will need to move them to another container and then another container until you have the desired amount for your research. For this reason, it is important to select a cell culture dish or flask appropriate for your application. Failure to do so can result in cell death.

What is suspension cell culture?

Suspension cells grow freely in the culture medium. Unlike adherent cells, these cells do not need to attach to a surface. These types include blood cells and some cancer cells. Culturing suspension cells can be a challenge because they need specialized culture vessels and techniques to maintain their viability and growth.

Suspension cell characteristic and behavior during cultivation

Suspension cells are a unique type of cell culture system characterized because they grow and proliferate in a suspended state within a liquid medium. Unlike adherent cells that attach to a substrate, suspension cells freely float, typically in bioreactors or flasks equipped with agitation systems. This characteristic allows for the cultivation of a wide range of cell types, including animal cells, plant cells, and microorganisms. Suspension cells exhibit dynamic behavior during cultivation, with their growth and metabolism highly influenced by factors such as nutrient availability, oxygen levels, and shear forces generated by agitation. If you are working with suspension cells, you need to carefully control these parameters to optimize cell growth, maintain viability, and promote the production of desired proteins and antibodies.

What is feeder cell culture?

Feeder cell culture is a technique used in cell biology and cell culture to support the growth and maintenance of other cells. Feeder cell culture provides the right environment and nutrients to help the cells grow well. Typically, feeder cells are used to culture stem cells. Your choice of feeder cells can vary depending on the specific cell type you are culturing. Common feeder cell types include mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs), mouse embryonic stromal cells (MESCs), or human-derived feeder cells like human foreskin fibroblasts (HFFs). You can customize you’re your culture conditions and feeder cell types to meet your needs.

Benefits and characteristics of feeder cell culture

The behavior of feeder cell culture can vary depending on the type of feeder cells used and the specific cell lines or cells being cultured. Feeder cells serve as contributors to the cultivation process, performing a multitude of vital functions. Their primary role is to provide essential growth factors and nutritive substances to the cultured cells. In addition to their nutritional support, feeder cells emit a variety of specialized signals and chemical cues that coordinate and regulate the growth and division of the other cells. The feeder cells also protect the microenvironment for the cultured cells, protecting their integrity and promoting optimal growth conditions. Another role of feeder cells is waste management. They continually work to clean up the waste the other cells produce as they grow.

Helpful links to learn more about cell culture types

Cell Culture Basics


Science Select Topics

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Cell Culture Lab Equipment Check List and Guide

2 Comments on "Types of Basic Cell Cultures: A Closer Look at Characteristics and Behavior"

  1. I am Pandian KN I am like Water treatment laboratory in India so so kindly request in best equipments and training also thank you

    • Antylia Scientific Blog Team | October 2, 2023 at 8:51 am | Reply

      Hello Pandian KN:

      Thank you for reaching out. We will forward your informaiton to our technical expert and they will be able to assist you with your request.

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