• Question: when you say that your day usually consists of keeping cells alive and warm what does this involve: what do cells get fed to eat etc.

    Asked by lewis to Marianne on 11 Jun 2019.
    • Photo: Marianne King

      Marianne King answered on 11 Jun 2019:

      Hi! 🙂 My cells grow on the bottom of plastic plates and different cells need to be fed different things. Cell media (which is cell food) usually has the same sort of base – we call it the basal media – and contains: amino acids, glucose, salts, a pH indicator (which makes the media pink) and a buffering system, among other things. This provides them with the nutrients they need to grow, and the pH indicator lets us know when the media needs changing – it will go from pink to yellow as the cells produce more acidic byproducts of respiration, like lactate. It can also go yellow if the cells become infected with bacteria! Some cell types will happily grow in just this basal media. But some cells will then maybe require a media ‘supplement’. This can contain substances that are more specific to the cell type you’re growing, and are essential for them to grow happily. These can be things like growth factors, which stimulate cell growth – different cells require different types of these growth factors. I have about ten different types of media in my fridge at the moment, as I’m growing a lot of different types of cells! We keep them warm by putting our cells in incubators. They look like fridges but are set to 37oC, to mimic conditions in our bodies. Cells will be happy at room temperature for the time it takes to feed them though.