Science And Art Author: Holly Ahern

Cells of all types -- from organisms as simple as bacteria to those as complex as humans -- can be removed from representative tissues and grown in a culture vessel, where they reproduce and perform the same biological functions as cells in their natural state. When human skin cells such as fibroblasts are grown in culture, for example, they attach to the culture vessel and form a layer, just as if they were forming a layer of skin. Cultured fibroblasts secrete proteins such as fibronectin and fibroblast growth factor in the same way that cells in tissues do.

This property of producing proteins in vitro makes cultured cells an attractive biopharmaceutical tool. The cells act as tiny protein factories that churn out liters of valuable antibiotics, hormones, growth factors, and other chemotherapeutic agents.

Growing cells in culture is an exacting science that requires, in...

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