Cell Culture Core Laboratory at the Integrated Research Facility

Major Areas of Research

  • High-quality mammalian cell cultures
  • Cell expansion for banking

Program Description

Technicians perform complex viral assay under BSL-3 conditions

Technicians perform complex viral assay under BSL-3 conditions.


The Cell Culture Core provides high-quality mammalian cell cultures through routine quality control (QC) testing for Mycoplasma, endotoxin, and sterility and routine cell passage and viability monitoring. Cells are ordered through an online ordering system (SharePoint) and provided in a variety of standard flask and plate formats. Experienced cell culture staff is available for troubleshooting and training other staff. In addition, the Cell Culture Core can consult on new cell-based assay techniques and model system development.


The main lab contains a TAP Biosystems CompacT SelecT automated cell culture system, eight standard CO2 incubators, and one reach-in incubator. The CompacT SelecT automation system has a 90-flask (T175 or Nunc Triple) capacity and can robotically seed up to 200 6-, 24-, 96- or 384-well standard format microplates. The integrated liquid handling system can aspirate and dispense media to all of the multi-well plate formats. Manual cell culture is not restricted by format, and cells can be seeded in any standard flasks or microplates or in special formats such as the Electric Cell-Substrate Impedance Sensing arrays. The laboratory also contains automated cell counters and an Incucyte FLR live-cell imaging platform. The Incucyte FLR is placed in a CO2 incubator, where it captures phase contrast or fluorescent (e.g., green fluorescent protein [GFP]) images of cells at repeated intervals to monitor cell health and generate experimental growth curves.

Loading flasks onto the CompacT SelecT cell culture robot in the BSL-2 cell culture laboratory

Loading flasks onto the CompacT SelecT cell culture robot in the BSL-2 cell culture laboratory.


The Cell Culture Core also expands cells for banking and maintains an extensive inventory of frozen cells. The inventory consists of 146 different lines of primary and immortalized mammalian cells from various species (e.g. human, murine, bat, NHP). Individual labs may request additional cell lines through SharePoint. Newly acquired cell lines are first grown in a small quarantine lab where they are tested and expanded. If requested, human cell line DNA can be sent out for short tandem repeat (STR) authentication. An internal project is also underway to develop NHP cell line STR authentication.

We also have the capability to maintain hybridoma cell lines and generate purified monoclonal antibodies. For polyclonal antibody development requiring ascites production or antigen immunizations for novel monoclonal antibodies we would use commercial vendors or collaborate with other NIH laboratories.

Finally, the Cell Culture Core operates a media store. Commonly used media, supplements, and fetal bovine serum are ordered in bulk and stored for use throughout the IRF. Fetal bovine sera are screened and tested for support of growth of commonly used cell lines.​​

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