The History And Future Of Cell Cultures Essay


The word “cell” was firstly used in the 17th century. In early eighteenth century, Virchow and other scientists discovered the nucleus and developed the theory of how cells are formed from a scission of pre-existing cells. In the nineteenth century, Schleiden and Schwann formulated the famous “cell theory”. In the twentieth century the first in vitro cell cultures were created and later improved with the help of 3D cell culture technology.


In present times, cell cultures are used for a number of scientific pursuits such as disease modeling, IVF, cancer research, regenerative medicine and others. Cell culture is a field which has seen immense progress through discoveries such as methods of cell culture preservation, use in antibodies and vaccines, use of human cell lines, induced pluripotent stem cells (IPS), etc. The invention and perfection of microscopes has also played an important role in this evolution as they allow the study of cell structures, motility of cells and organelles, communication between cells.

Important milestones

“Cell theory” originated in year 1838 by the botanist Schleiden and the zoologist Schwann and is an important milestone in the history of developments of cell culture as a research tool due to the fact that it showed that the structure of all plant tissues is formed of cells, which determine the growth of plants through increase in cell numbers.

A year later Schwann extended this theory to animal tissue as well. In 1859 Virchow advanced this theory as a model for disease, suggesting that diseases are caused by bad behaving cells. The following major contribution was made by Leo Loeb (1869-1959) who worked on developing what is now the in vitro cell culture technique. His work permitted the study of culture cells both inside and outside the body of animals. Later, Ross Granville Harrison (1870-1959) conducted the first real in vitro experiments, using fragments of frog tissue isolated and grown outside the body. In 1912, the first “cell line” was cultured which was maintained for nearly 34 years with appropriate antiseptic methods. It was believed that, with an improved culture medium, a cell culture could even be cultured forever.

In the 1930’s cell cultures were used successfully for organ perfusions for cats. In 1948 the first diploid cell line was developed improved upon in the 50’s and 60’s. Also, experiments were conducted on human cells and cancer cells for diagnosis and clinical studies. In 1986, the first protein-recombinant tissue-type plasminogen activator was obtain from a hamster tissue which triggered more discoveries related to recombinant proteins in mammalian cells. In the 90’s a number of manufacturers produced biotherapeutic products with a wide application on mammals and humans as well – Follicle stimulating hormone used for infertility, Anti-TNFα mAb for rheumatoid arthritis, Anti-CTLA4 mAb for melanoma etc. These discoveries in recombinant biotherapeutic protein production had many clinical applications. In 2012 Guordon was awarded the Nobel Prize for discoveries which proved the reversible nature of cell specialization and Yamanaka for reprogramming mature mouse cells to immature cells. These lead to developments in cartilage and peripheral nerve repair as well as cardiac regenerative therapy.

3-D bioprinting technology

The 3-D cell culture model serves as a better model than 2-Dthrough anchorage- independent cell cultures. 3-D printing is a better method of analyzing and understanding cell growth and migration. Thus, they produce more accurate results in experiments for pharmacology and cancer research.

But 3-D printing also comes with additional technological requirements such as biological material inkjet, micro extrusion and laser-assisted bio-printing (LAB).

Future for cell cultures

In 2006 the first cultured organ was a bladder and the first fully functioning lab-grown organ was a mouse thymus. Aside from large organs, embryonic stem cells were used to develop brain tissue and spinal cord as well as specialized areas such as the cerebral cortex and retina. In the future, it is believed that human cell cultures will be used for personal therapies such as tissue engineering and organ transplant.

How to cite this essay: