What Is Tissue Culture?

Tissue culture is a biological research process that involves transferring tissue fragments from a plant or animal to an artificial environment wherein the fragments continue to survive and function, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica. The cultured tissue may contain a single cell, a cell population, an entire organ or part of an organ.

Cells in culture can multiply, change in size, form or function, show specialized activity or interact with other cells, as explained on Encyclopaedia Britannica. Tissue culture allows researchers to control the cellular environment and examine and manipulate the behavior of cells. Through tissue cultures, basic information about cells has been revealed, including form and composition; genetic, reproductive and biochemical activity; metabolism; nutrition; specialized functions; aging processes and healing processes; and effects of biological, physical and chemical agents on cells.

Tissue culture is usually a generic term that describes cell culture and organ culture, states Julie B. Wolf from the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Cell cultures are derived from cell suspensions or primary tissue explants. Primary cell cultures often have a finite life span in culture, while continuous cell lines are often abnormal and transformed cell lines. The growth pattern of the cells involves a quiescent or lag phase, depending on the cell type, seeding density, media components and previous handling.