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Celebrating a Century of Cell Culture (1907 - 2007)

To help celebrate the 100th anniversary of cell culture we have created this history site to help you find interesting information about the early days of cell culture, some of the researchers who helped develop the techniques used today and some of the products they used. We have also included helpful links to areas we hope you find interesting.

Early cell culture lab1                                    Early cell culture lab2
Figure 1. Early cell culture laboratories (circa 1930) at Central Cancer Research Labs which would later become part of the National Cancer Institute. Photos courtesy of NCI Visuals Online; source: G. Terry Sharrer, Ph.D. National Museum of American History, unknown photographer.


1907 – Cell Culture Solves a Problem

Just a century ago Ross Harrison published his findings on the growth of nerve fibers in vitro. With these simple experiments cell culture was on its way to becoming one of the most important and widely used tools in the life sciences. > More  

1910 to 1923 – Carrel and the Early Days of Tissue Culture

Carrel was already very talented surgeon when he was recruited to the Rockefeller Institute in 1906. He had won acclaim for developing the first successful technique for suturing together blood vessels in way which prevented blood clots. This technique allowed him to perform organ transplantation in animals which stimulated his thinking of growing organs outside of the body. Excited by Harrison’s work his culture techniques dominated the field for the next 40 years. > More  

1950s - Spinner Flasks to Bioreactors

New cell culture applications in the 1950s required the production of cells in larger quantities than ever before. A new approach, suspension culture was developed to meet these needs. Today cells grown in stirred tank bioreactors produce drugs worth billions of dollars every year. > More 

Corning Cell Culture History Seminars

As part of their online seminar series, Corning offers two recorded seminars on cell culture history. These seminars have both voice and images which require using Adobe Flash Player.

The First 50 Years of Cell Culture
Publication of Ross Harrison's work with explanted embryonic frog tissue in 1907 presented researchers with an exciting new approach to exploring cell biology. But several key problems had to be overcome before this new tool, cell culture, could reach its potential. This seminar covers how, over the next 50 years, researchers overcame these problems, creating one of the most important and widely used tools in Life Science today. Click here to view this seminar.

Polio: How Cell Culture Solved the Problem and Started the Bioprocess Industry
Polio epidemics swept cities in North America almost every summer until Jonas Salk and his team, supported by the March of Dimes, developed the first successful vaccine in the early 1950s. A major road block was how to mass produce the polio virus in cell culture at a time when cultures were still being grown on plasma clots in tubes and small glass T-flasks. This webinar will cover the breakthroughs that enabled researchers to mass produce the virus and conquer this dread disease. In doing so, they laid the foundation for a bioprocess industry that now produces cell-based vaccines, monoclonal antibodies and drugs worth tens of billions of dollars annually. Click here to view this seminar.

Please note: Seminars will not run without having Flash Player installed on your computer! Please click here to install Flash Player.

Helpful Information

Major Cell Repositories

 Introduction to Animal Cell Culture
 Cell Culture Technical Library
 Upcoming Cell Culture Seminars

 Coriell Institute for Medical Research
 European Collection of Cell Cultures (ECACC)
 German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures (DSMZ)
 Riken Bioresource Center (Japan)