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What Are Immortalized Cells?

Understanding the process of establishing immortalized cell lines from primary culture is important. These specialized cells are a group of cells that result in a mutation and keep undergoing division. These kinds of cells can grow in vitro for long periods of time. They are a strong tool for science investigators to research cell biology and biochemistry. All of this research has been applied in immunology, cancer biology, molecular biology, hematology and cell biology. Here’s an outline of the basics of immortal cell lines, including their advantages and disadvantages.

Primary cells reach senescence after generation and establish fresh cultures. This is a very long and tedious process. Immortalized cells make the process easier and make the result in experimentation consistence. These cells exhibit tissue-specific features and differentiation-specific proteins. They are a vital factor in research and are often used.

It’s important to note that this is a difference between tumor cells and these types of cells. Unlike tumor cells, these cells maintain their phenotype and genotype. Tumor cells lose contact inhibition and their classic features.

There are many viral genes that affect the cell cycle. One of the methods used is simian virus 40. It induces immortalization. Telomerase is another. Telomerase is a ribonucleoprotein that is the most popular method for cell immortalization. In some cell types, it is not possible to yield immortal cells. The hTERT method is recommended to immortalize a big number of cells. The following are a few observed properties of immortal cells using this method:

  • Contact inhibited
  • Growth factors for proliferation
  • Normal cell cycle controls
  • Anchorage dependent
  • Nonmalignant
  • Normal growth factors to serum

The main downside of using immortalized cells is that these cells aren’t normal. They can express unique gene patterns and divide indefinitely. Researches have used neuronal cell lines to investigate the process in neurons, such as growth and axon selection. One popular cell culture is used by rat tumors.

At the same time, there are many advantages to using these cells. First of all, they are well characterized and homogeneous. They tend to be easier to culture as they grow robustly. Plus, no extraction from a living animal is needed. Large amounts can also be cultivated. They can easily be used in the study of neurons. And since these cells continuously divide and grow, researches can easily transfer them to new dishes for further proliferation. Lastly, it is also possible to create immortal cell lines that continuously express a gene of interest or a mutant version. Without a doubt, immortal cell lines have moved cellular biology forward.