Countless challenges and issues can arise in stem cell culture. Every lab comes across difficulties in stem cell culture, and this process can actually be used to great benefit for your research. In this article, Manchester Biogel takes a look into what defines a stem cell, what they can be used for and delves into the variety of difficulties that can arise from the stem cell culture process.

What Are Stem Cells?

Every single cell has its original starting point – and that is a stem cell. A stem cell is undifferentiated cells that are able to develop into a wide range of different sorts of specific cells. One example of this is that one solitary stem cell could possibly differentiate or undergo growth in order to become a muscle cell, a structural cell in bone or even potentially an active cell in an immune system. A stem cell could differentiate amongst all of these different lines in order to provide certain functions, dependant on the specific conditions in which it is put in.

A stem cell has a fantastic ability in which it is able to renew itself inside the body – dividing itself to make a brand new cell caused by specific triggers that can, in turn, develop into a mature cell of a specialised type. Lots of stem cells are named ‘pluripotent’, and this means they can virtually turn into any other cell that is found in the body. On the other hand, other cells are limited and can be referred to as ‘tissue-specific’, ‘somatic’ or ‘multipotent’.

There are three main categories which stem cells can be broken down into. These are:

1.Embryonic stem cells – these are cells that are pluripotent in human embryos, and they are used to form the basis of the body’s entirety.
2.Adult stem cells – these cells are more specialised cells that can be discovered throughout the body. They are used for continuous renewal and maintenance, yet have a reduced set of potential specialisation abilities.
3.Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells – these stem cells are engineered in a laboratory that is made from the reprogramming of other cell types (including muscle tissue and skin cells).

What Makes Stem Cells Challenging to Culture?

It can be tough to culture stem cells efficiently – many stem cells can be difficult to culture for a range of applications. The medium of the culture must be biocompatible for culture to be successful. Generally, this means the vessel must be coated with cells that are a very similar type to it. Unfortunately, because stem cells could self-renew, what is known as a ‘Feeder layer’ is needed. This is a layer of cells that, in order to inhibit growth, has been tested. It is needed to give nutrients to the target cells – a feeder layer, traditionally, is made of mouse embryo cells, but this can pass viruses onto cell culture.

Can Stem Cell Culture Be Successful?

A successful stem cell line is more than capable of giving many sub-cultures in a variety of ‘passages’. Countless applications depend on stem cells retaining their ability to specialise when required by sustaining their pluripotency. When a culture process is a success, it will guarantee that the stem cells are not deprived of their ability to differentiate until they are needed to.

Through testing, it should be concluded that the cell line development and the conditions of culture will not restrict the stem cells from performing subsequent specialisation of interest of differentiation. It can be hard to replicate the in vivo signals that result in stem cell specialisation, and it poses an even more significant challenge when the process results in damage or inconsistencies.