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By Vijay Shankar Balakrishnan

Vijay Shankar Balakrishnan2Acquisition and maintenance of high quality cell banks has become an essential part of any research lab. For a pharmaceutical company, its cell bank must be immaculate, so as to source its living currency for various cellular assays towards drug discovery. In a review recently published in Drug Discovery Today, Jonathan Wrigley and colleagues present a graphical and verbal blueprint on how AstraZeneca (AZ) cares for eukaryotic cell cultures effectively.

Eukaryotic cell lines must be constantly checked for nutrients and cross- or infectious contamination, besides having a properly updated inventory on them. The authors note that 18-36% of cell lines reported are either misidentified or contaminated, and they suggest that an alternative cell-banking scheme or model, like the one followed by AZ, might help academics and industry to carry out reliable and reproducible research.

The normal model, as the authors say, is to have the same cell line in different research groups within the same organization. But there could be problems, because of the very difference in cell quality thanks to the distinct methods of culturing, freezing, and storing them, let alone the possibility of any mycoplasma infection: “although two groups can hold the same cell line, there could be significant phenotypic differences, making it very hard to compare data between laboratories and potentially resulting in an inability to reproduce data. The underlining advice is to have a centralised cell banking model.”

The alternative approach that AZ takes is to have a centralized model of cryopreserved cells. The Global Cell Bank (GCB) at Alderley Park holds responsibility for acquisition of both externally obtained and internally generated cell lines. Additionally, GCB also tests the quality of cell lines both internally and by outsourcing, before storing and supplying them. An efficient database maintenance and networking among the AZ scientists at different locations let them “ensure consistency in all aspects of cell banking across the company,” to quote the authors.

Starting from cell culture acquisition, bank generation, quality control, storage and distribution of cells to data management, and sample tracking through Cell Line Tracker database, AZ shows thoroughly what works for them. In short, according to the authors, centralising the technical and managerial links of the cell banking chain by AZ renders them successful in cell banking sector; and experts might as well lend them their ears.

The authors do not just list out their way of cell banking. They also have shared their tips on the cell banking model, cell bank performance, quality control, the actual banking facility and the outline of the Cell Line Tracker database. Whether it is a guideline to establish a pragmatic cell banking infrastructure, or an advertisement to access AZ’s cell banking facility, the review nonetheless calls attention to the concerned researchers. After all, a successful cell banking approach would prevent undesirable expenses in the already lavish drug discovery.

Vijay Shankar Balakrishnan, Ph.D., is a science writer based in Germany. Shankar Balakrishnan devours thought-provoking and sensible science books and documentaries. He writes on a variety of topics under life, health, and pharmaceutical sciences.