Culturing cells for the Human Cell Atlas

Cell Atlas Immunofluorescence

Anna Bäckström with the cells in a LAF bench

The Human Cell Atlas, to be released on December 4, displays high resolution, multicolour images of immunofluorescently stained cells. This provides spatial information on protein expression patterns on a fine cellular and subcellular level. From the start three cell lines, U-2 OS, A-431 and U-251 MG, originating from different human tissues were chosen to be included in the immunofluorescent analysis.

Starting from year 2012, the cell line panel has been expanded and the Human Cell Atlas will include RNA-sequencing data for 56 cell lines and images from 22 different cell lines, selected to represent various cell populations in different tissue types and organs of the human body.

– During the work with the Cell Atlas we have had up to 14 different cell lines in culture at the same time, says Anna Bäckström, research engineer in the Cell Profiling group.

Anna is an engineer in chemistry with a degree from KTH and has worked within the Human Protein Atlas since 2008, first in the protein factory and since 2014 in the Cell Profiling Group.

– I spend very much time in the cell lab, up to five hours a day, three days a week. It is extremely important to be very careful and exact when working with the cells, she says.

All the cells used for the Cell Atlas are cultivated in antibiotic- and antimycotic-free medium and tested for mycoplasma on a regular basis.

– Mainly it is to ensure that the expression of proteins is not influenced by extrinsic factors, but of course there is also the environmental aspect, Anna Bäckström says.

Rutger Shutten is another research engineer in the group and has been a part of the team since 2013.

– I really love lab work, so this is a perfect place for me, he says.

Rutger has participated in large parts of the production chain in the Cell Atlas, from cell culture and antibody diluting, to preparing the cells for microscopy, and he is very good with the cells.

– Yes, Rutger is like a "cell database", his colleague Anna Bäckström confirms. He knows all the cell lines, how they look, and all the tips and tricks on how to make them as healthy as possible.

– My colleagues and me represent the continuity in the lab. Continuity and routines are very important, especially when culturing cells, Rutger concludes.

On December 4, the new version of the Human Protein Atlas, including the brand new Cell Atlas will be launched during a Tech Talk at the American Association of Cell Biology´s Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

Tech Talk: Explore the Human Cell. December 4, 2:00 - 2:45 PM in Theater 1

Frida Henningson Johnson

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