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How to Use Collagen in Cell Culture

27/02/19
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As you are probably aware, cell culture is a very important biological process that enables the testing and synthesis of all sorts of useful organic material. However, successful cell culture requires a highly specific environment that is precision-engineered to give the target cells the best possible chance of growing and developingTo these environments, collagen is often used as culture media as it is able to create conditions that are stable, nurturing, adaptable and beneficial to all sorts of cells.

Would you like to know more about how this highly effective material works in cell culture, and how it could improve your processes?

Introducing collagen

Collagen is a very common protein  that plays a number of roles in the body, acting as connective material, providing molecular filtration in organs and giving structure to many types of tissue.

Present in abundant quantities in mammals (being 25-30% of the total protein content in most species), collagen has a triple helical structure of amino acids and is classified into one of 28 types, with 5 of these making up the majority of the material in animals.

The cell culture process

Cell culture is the growth and development of target cells in a synthetic environment. Cells are given a medium, nutrients and other conditions designed to help them grow or propagate for a set period of time, and then they are harvested or tested.

The process is used in an array of biological settings such as bacterial testing, drug discovery and fundamental research.

  • Extract the cells of interest from their natural source,
  • Apply them to a growth medium with environmental conditions suitable to encourage their growth, and
  • Harvest and analyse the resulting cells after a suitable period.

This is a simple process in principle, but there are many factors that need to be considered for success. And one of the most important is the medium in which the cells grow.

Using collagen in cell culture

Cell cultures environments need to support development without restricting the behaviours and processes that are under examination. Collagen is regarded by many researchers as the best option for cell culture media as it has very good bio-compatibility and enables the array of physical activities that cells need to carry out to develop effectively in culture. It acts as an extracellular matrix, able to fix or enable the migration of cells as required, and helps to deliver nutrients to the right places throughout the process.

Collagen has been shown to increase the chances of cell culture success, and this is an area where the costs of failure can be serious, due to it’s unique properties.

The advantages of collagen in cell culture

Collagen provides a number of distinct advantages in cell culture over alternative media options:

  • It has the ability to reproduce its inner environment so as to provide a structured medium for cells to interact with.
  • It is biologically active and able to promote cell growth and adhesion. The collagen surface contains ligands that can bind target cells providing stability to samples and facilitating the delivery of nutrients.
  • It is biodegradable, so host cells in the culture can replace collagen cells and build a bespoke extracellular matrix.
  • It has a porous surface with gaps that are wide enough to enable other cells to migrate through it, yet small enough to facilitate their attachment to the collagen medium.
  • Its unique structural properties make it suitable for 3D cell culture – which is increasingly important in the field.
  • It doesn’t contain any chemicals or organic materials that are harmful to or cause allergic effects in humans, so analysts can handle it safely.

Types of collagen used in cell culture

Cell culture collagen is typically derived from one of the following sources:

  • Bovine samples,
  • Porcine samples,
  • Rat tails, or
  • Genetically engineered plants.

Each of these has different strengths and weaknesses due to the genetic history of the organisms, production processes, and the inherent structure and immunogenic profile of each material.

Here at Jellagen, we produce collagen from a different category :  the jellyfish. You can find out more about what jellyfish collagen can bring to the cell culture process in our recent white paper , but regardless of the source; collagen’s role in cell culture is very important, and it is helping to generate new research across the world.

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