Benefits of using cell lines versus primary cells

Published December 21, 2017 3:52 pm by James Briggs

The use of cell lines as compared to primarily cells is one that the scientific community often debates due to the many complicated factors that must be taken into account in order to yield accurate results.

In summary, the concern is that cell lines do not necessarily represent what is occurring in vivo. However, they are the most precise, controlled method for scientific findings for long-term research projects, and are preferred by many scientists.

Here is a short overview of some of the benefits of using cell lines as opposed to primary cells:

  • Intended for research

Cell lines are created for research purposes: they often have unlimited passages and elevated output signals for assay development, whereas primary cells offer around 15 to 20 passages.

Using cell lines, it is simpler to control the manipulation of cellular functions, and the interpretation of their results is often clearer. This is why it’s generally recommended that cell lines are used throughout preliminary screenings, until the research is standardised, and then to validate the findings using primary cells which more closely represent an in vivo reaction.

Using cell lines for research is particularly valuable for investigating pathophysiology and screening for potential therapeutic targets of a variety of diseases and disorders in biological systems.

  • Widely published

Within the scientific community, cell lines are considered standard for biological research. This is because they are consistent, have a much longer life span and therefore work most effectively for long-term research studies.

Research utilising cell lines has been widely published and is widely accepted by the scientific community.

  • Ease of use

Cell lines are well characterised, have a longer life span than primary cells, and proliferate more quickly and easily than primary cells. They’re also homogenous, easily manipulated and propagated. Plus, cell lines are available in larger quantities than primary cells, where sample sizes are often limited, restricting research opportunities.

Primarily cells can behave differently in culture conditions based on numerous factors, including genetics and age of the sample derivative. It’s more difficult to handle primary cells as they are easily altered and are more reactive to a variety of conditions which don’t impact cell lines as significantly. Also, the results from research using primary cells is not as easily reproduceable, because it is less consistent and consists of more layers of variability.

  • Cost effective

Cell lines are more cost-effective than primary cells. They last longer, are easier to transport and store and offer unlimited passages, whereas primary cells expire.

Here we have presented a simplistic outline of the benefits and uses of cell lines. Researchers should consider the limitations and end goals of their studies before choosing whether to use primary cells or cell lines.

We would like to note that it is important to utilise quality, authenticated cell lines in research.

This is why we’ve partnered with North American-based Cedarlane, which has long-standing, credible relationships with some of the world’s most prominent biopharmaceutical organizations. Through their work in research laboratories with esteemed partners, they are experts at providing cell lines with exact biological properties, and which have been characterised based on a detailed analysis and strict development history.

VH Bio is the exclusive UK distributor of Cedarlane, which provides a wide range of novel cell lines including motor neuron, pituitary, hippocampal, oligodendrocytic and cardiac endothelial.

Browse our cell line product range or contact us to discuss your requirements.



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