Cell culture techniques: A life sciences field with great potential
It has been possible to grow animal and plant cells in the laboratory for over 100 years already. “Cell culture methods are a good alternative to animal testing. In many cases, work with laboratory animals can be replaced with cell culture tests,” explained Veronika Jesenberger, director of the cell culture techniques project that is being funded by the City of Vienna at UAS Technikum Wien. Cell cultures are used in biomedical research and diagnostics, for the manufacture of vaccines and medicines, and for toxicological tests. Current trends in stem cell research and tissue engineering are also bringing more and more cell culture techniques into regenerative medicine.
Research in this field has advanced rapidly in recent years and has yielded concrete, practical applications. “Genetic engineering is nothing new, but until now it was relatively inexact, and its successes were largely happenstance. TheCRISPR/Cas9 technology has given us new options for targeted manipulation.” This is a prerequisite for understanding the cell signal pathways better and for creating new therapies in human medicine. This work is also technical – technology at the nanometer level.
The tissue engineering research focus at UAS Technikum Wien has seen a number of successful research projects over the years. And the students benefit, as well. The goal of the current cell culture techniques project is to expand the offerings in cell culture techniques and to add the field of genome engineering.
Teaching at the cutting edge
A number of degree programs include introductory courses. “This is where we teach basic methods: How do you work with cells in a sterile environment? What devices are used, and how are they operated? The idea is to expand the offerings in the field of cell culture techniques and to incorporate new technologies,” Jesenberger said.
To this end, the existing courses are being revised and different modules are being developed, from the basic module to advanced techniques such as genome engineering. Once the project is complete, students will have a wide range of modules at their disposal. The project also includes activities such as internships, presentations during the OPEN DAYS and at other information events, and master’s projects through which students are involved in the research.
“The infrastructure in our cell culture laboratories is very good,” Jesenberger said. With the help of her project colleagues Christine Eresheim and Verena Pichler, her goal is to ensure that the students benefit from this infrastructure as much as possible. The project team also works to forge important contacts for students, arrange internships outside of the university, and bring external experts to the university.