The Significance of Specific Surfaces for Adherent Cell Culture

adherent cell culture plate

How surface properties affect adherent cell behavior and function

Cell culture is a fundamental technique in biological research and biotechnology where scientists manipulate cells outside their natural environment. It is a fundamental tool for studying cellular processes, developing new therapies and drugs, and producing recombinant proteins. Two primary cells in cell culture are adherent cells and suspension cells. Adherent cells that require a surface to attach to for growth. They typically adhere to the culture vessel’s surface, such as the bottom of a petri dish or a cell culture flask. Examples of adherent cells include fibroblasts and epithelial cells. Suspension cells do not require a surace to grow so they grow suspended in th culture medium such as a flask. Suspension cells are cells that do not require a surface for growth and remain suspended in the culture medium. Examples include various types of blood cells and certain types of immune cells. Suspension cultures are often used for cells that naturally exist in a liquid environment.

Depending on the type of cells being cultured, different approaches may be necessary. For example, culturing adherent cells vs suspension cells may require different culture vessels and conditions. Additionally, the use of feeder cells may be necessary for some cell types to support growth.

Adherent cell culture is a method for cultivating cells that require a surface to attach to for growth and proliferation. In this blog, we explore why adherent cells require a proper surface to attach to, but first we need to understand what an adherent cell is.

Understanding adherent cells and why they are vital in research

An adherent cell, also known as an adherent cell line or adherent culture, refers to a type of cell that attaches and sticks to the surface of a substrate or culture vessel, such as a or as part of its natural growth and proliferation process. Adherent cells require a solid or semi-solid surface to grow and typically form a monolayer, meaning they grow in a single layer on the substrate.

Adherent cells are commonly used in cell culture and laboratory research for various purposes, including studying cell behavior, drug testing, and biotechnology applications. Examples of adherent cell types include many types of mammalian cells, such as fibroblasts, epithelial cells, and endothelial cells. These cells are often used in cell-based assays and experiments to investigate cellular responses to different stimuli or conditions. They are widely used in cancer research, tissue engineering, drug development and regenerative medicine.

Reasons why adherent cells require a specific surface

Adherent cells require a certain surface for attachment, signaling, maintaining shape, differentiation, and various experimental and medical applications. The characteristics of the surface can influence cell behavior and functionality, making it an important consideration in cell biology, tissue engineering, and related fields. Let’s look at each requirement a little more in detail.

The role of surface in cell attachment and anchoring

Adherent cells need a surface to attach themselves to grow. This attachment is crucial for their survival and functionality. In their natural environment, cells adhere to the extracellular matrix, neighboring cells, or other surfaces to maintain their position and carry out their functions. In a laboratory environment, the surface must be replicated in a flask for the cells to attach and begin to grow.

Cell surface interaction in signaling and intercellular communication

Cell adhesion to the surface facilitates communication between cells and their surrounding environment. This is a fundamental importance in the development and maintenance of cells. Adherent cells receive signals from the extracellular matrix or neighboring cells through adhesion molecules, which can influence their behavior, growth, and differentiation. It’s important to know how cells communicate. Depending on how they communicate can determine types of diseases.

How surfaces influence cell shape and morphology

A solid surface provides support for cells to maintain their shape and morphology. Cells can spread, elongate, and adopt specific shapes when adhered to a surface. Shape changes are needed for a wide range of cellular functions, including migration, tissue formation, and mechanical stability.  One of the most prominent roles of these shape changes is in cellular migration, an essential mechanism for processes such as wound healing, immune responses, and embryonic development. When cells adhere to a solid surface, they can extend protrusions like lamellipodia and filopodia, allowing them to move in a coordinated and directional manner. This dynamic behavior permits cells to navigate through complex tissue environments, seeking out specific targets or responding to external cues.

Surface cues and adherent cell differentiation

Adherent cells often differentiate into specialized cell types depending on the signals they receive from the surrounding environment. A suitable surface can provide the necessary cues for cells to differentiate into specific cell lineages and perform specialized functions. Cell differentiation allows cells to develop into specialized cell types with specific functions. Adherent cells can undergo differentiation based on signals they receive from their microenvironment.

Using surfaces to replicate extracellular matix in labs

Cell culture surfaces are designed to mimic the extracellular matrix (ECM) or other tissue environments to provide a controlled and consistent environment for cell experiments and studies. The extracellular matrix is a complex network of proteins and carbohydrates that surrounds cells in living tissues. It provides mechanical support, regulates cell behavior, and plays a significant role in cell signaling. To conduct meaningful cell experiments and studies, you need to replicate the ECM’s characteristics and interactions with cells in an in vitro (outside the body) setting. Having the ideal surface is crucial to mimic the ECM and other tissue environments.

Learn more about Cell Culture Basics

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