A History of Cell Culture

  • Milton W. TaylorEmail author


Cells from different tissues of plants and animals can be grown and cultured in artificial media outside the body. Cell culture started off as tissue culture with the development of the “hanging drop technique” by Ross Harrison, whereby a small piece of tissue was placed in a drop of medium (including serum), and cells migrated from the tissue into the surrounding environment. Further advances in tissue culture were made by Alexis Carel and Charles Lindbergh, who grew tissue on glass plates and developed techniques to keep tissue continuously growing. These techniques developed into cell culture, where cells could be collected from a variety of sources, separated by trypsin, and grown into a monolayer if given appropriate medium-containing serum. Such cells of human and murine origin were used for growing viruses. John Franklin Enders and colleagues discovered that poliovirus and other viruses could be grown in cell lines developed from primary cells. These results gave a boost to research in developing a polio vaccine, as well as to basic virology. In the 1940s and 1950s, plaque assays were developed for animal viruses, and quantitative methods of measuring viral growth were developed by Salvador Luria and Renato Dulbecco. In the 1960s and 1970s, methods were developed for clonal growth of cells in culture using newly isolated HeLa cells. This resulted in a new area of research—somatic cell genetics—with the development of stable cell lines. The observation that cells of different species fused in culture led to the development of somatic cell genetics, and eventually to the formation of hybridomas to produce monoclonal antibodies.


HeLa Cell Plaque Assay Tissue Culture Association Cell Culture Technique Polio Virus 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Indiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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