Origin and Ultrastructure of Cells in Vitro

L. M. Franks, Patricia D. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


This chapter discusses the origin and ultrastructure of cells in vitro. The chapter discusses those features that are particularly suitable for electron microscope investigation, and in particular the changes in ultrastructure due to in vitro culture. Ultrastructural evidence, confirmed by functional studies and animal inoculation of cultured cells has shown that differentiated epithelial and mesenchymal cells can be maintained in primary culture or in organ culture for many months. As a rule, there is a gradual loss of differentiated function, particularly if its maintenance is dependent on the endocrine environment, but differentiated structure may sometimes be retained. Most, if not all, epithelial cell strains or lines established from normal tissues, usually by enzyme selection techniques, produce tumors on reinoculation into animals. Most mesenchymal cell lines or strains established from normal tissue are similar to each other in ultrastructure. Two cell types predominate in these cultures, although transition forms may occur. The proportion of the different cell types may vary between cell lines. Depending on species of origin these cells may undergo neoplastic transformation or in vitro senescence. The cells are probably derived from endothelial cells and pericytes. Mesenchymal and epithelial cells with differentiated characters can be maintained as cell lines from a small proportion of tumors, so that there is some as yet unexplained relationship between neoplastic change and the ability to survive in vitro.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-139
Number of pages85
JournalInternational Review of Cytology
Issue numberC
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1977
Externally publishedYes


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