Cell Type Surface Guide | Cell Culture Surface Selection | Corning

The surface you select for your precoated cultureware affects cell morphology, phenotype, and function, so it's essential that you get it right for upstream and downstream cell culture applications. By using the optimal cell type surface in your research, you can control variables in experimental data, more closely mimic in vivo conditions, promote cell growth, and achieve the desired endpoints.

Surface selection, though, isn't always straightforward. The options seem endless, and many have overlapping characteristics. It can be hard to determine what works best for your needs. This guide can help.

3 Surface Categories to Know

When selecting the right cultureware for your work, it's important to understand the three extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins used as coatings: natural, mimetic, and synthetic.

  • Natural coatings include ECMs and biologically coated surfaces, which help scientists mimic in vivo environments for 2D and 3D cultures. Options include collagenlaminin, or surfaces such as Corning® Matrigel® Matrix.
  • Mimetic coatings include ECM mimetic and advanced surfaces, which can support specialized cell expansion and assay applications via unique functional surface activity. Mostly applied in cell therapies, mimetic coatings use a small portion of the synthesized protein to support binding.
  • Synthetic coatings include enhanced tissue surfaces that modify cultureware with positive, negative, or positive-negative charges, depending on cell type. Synthetic coatings can promote the attachment and growth of fastidious cell types, including primary or transfected cell lines in low- or serum-free environments.

Questions to Ask

To determine which of those three cell type surfaces best applies to your research, ask yourself a series of questions, starting with a focused look at your objectives.

  • What physiology are you exploring? Consider which applications best match your intentions for the dish. If you're looking to explore cell expansion, you might choose collagen or Matrigel matrix, or even laminin, depending on cell type.
  • Where do the cells come from? Surface selection will also depend on cell origin, whether you're using primary cells and cell lines or progenitor and stem cells.
  • What is the desired cellular activity? Different approaches require different surface mechanisms. If you're looking to expand stem cells for a therapeutic approach, mimetic surfaces might work best. But growing organoids in a 3D environment would require scaffolding with an ECM.
  • Have you had issues with cell growth? If, in previous experiments, you've added more cells to a surface to make up for poor cell growth, weak attachment, or reduced differentiation, you might have selected the wrong surface type. Try a different surface to see how it affects growth.
  • How does the workflow affect cell durability? Consider how the downstream steps necessary for certain culturing can affect cell growth. Cell-based assays such as high throughput screening assays, for example, require rigorous washing; if cells are cultured on a loosely adherent surface, they could get washed away.

Surface selection can be complicated, even for experienced scientists. Corning Life Sciences offers two quick-reference guides — one on available surfaces and one on selection by cell type — that can help you select the right surface.