Figure 1: Total number of cell lines tested for mycoplasma at the CRUK CI, 2007–2013
Biorepository and cell services
We provide up-to-date expertise and training in all aspects of cell culture and biobanking. Our service allows simple access to storage, tracking and risk management of a variety of biological samples.
Most CRUK CI laboratories use the facility and we provide basic cell culture training, a weekly mycoplasma testing service (Figure 1), a batch testing service for serum and other cell culture media components, and quality controlled bulk culture of research cell lines, including mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs). We also offer a monthly routine human cell line authentication service using multiplex PCR and short tandem repeat (STR) profiling, which includes a mouse specific primer pair to detect any mouse cell contamination of human cell lines. These tests confirm integrity of research data and are becoming a requirement for publication in many leading journals, as such demand has increased.
We support four heavily-used Essen BioScience IncuCyte™ instruments which are compact, automated imaging platforms designed to provide kinetic, non-invasive live cell imaging. The instruments are located in a 5% CO2 incubator and acquire high definition phase contrast and fluorescent images of live, in vitro cell cultures. Custom image processing software calculates a variety of metrics, such as cell proliferation, invasion and migration assays, growth curves and optimisation of cell based assays and cell culture media components.
We host an annual cell culture workshop where a panel of guest experts in the field offer help and advice to our scientists.
We have been collaborating with the Caldas laboratory and Histopathology core facility to produce a tissue microarray consisting of 38 well-characterised breast cancer cell lines, which will be a valuable shared resource for CRUK CI scientists.
We have also co-authored and submitted a paper entitled “Guidelines for the use of cell lines in biomedical research”. These guidelines were prepared during 2013 by an ad hoc committee of international experts in cell biology and cell culture and are an update of the 1999 United Kingdom Coordinating Committee on Cancer Research Guidelines for the Use of Cell Lines in Cancer Research. The aim of this revised document is to highlight all major issues that might be encountered when deriving and using cell cultures for biomedical research and to provide recommendations as to how they can be identified, avoided and where possible eliminated.
The Human Tissue Act
This year saw another increase in the number of human tissue samples we received, both for general research, and clinical trials use. Our staff advise on, monitor and control the import, use, storage and disposal of human tissue samples for research, to ensure full compliance with the Human Tissue Act (2004) and the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) Codes of Practice, a statutory requirement for all research involving human tissue samples. We advise on how to request human tissue samples from the Addenbrooke’s Hospital tissue bank and other sources and how to obtain research ethics committee approval for new research projects involving the use of human tissues.
We are exploring live cell imaging platforms, with a particular interest in imaging 3D events such as spheroid growth, cell invasion and angiogenesis. We are looking at the possibility of operating one of our IncuCyte™ instruments in hypoxic conditions, which more closely mimics the in vivo conditions of tumours. Finally, we are examining the feasibility of offering some of our current services to external Cambridge researchers.