Animal Cell Culture

Volume 9 of the series Cell Engineering pp 689-716


Biosafety Recommendations on the Handling of Animal Cell Cultures

  • Philippe HermanAffiliated withBiosafety and Biotechnology Unit (SBB), WIV-ISP Scientific Institute of Public Health Email author 
  • , Katia PauwelsAffiliated withBiosafety and Biotechnology Unit (SBB), WIV-ISP Scientific Institute of Public Health

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The first steps in tissue culture are dating back to the beginning of the nineteenth century when biosafety measures did not yet exist. Later on, animal cell culture became essential for scientific research, diagnosis and biotechnological activities. Along with this development, biosafety concerns have emerged pointing to the risks for human health and in a lesser extent for the environment associated to the handling of animal cell cultures. The management of these risks requires a thorough risk assessment of both the cell cultures and the type of manipulation prior the start of any activity. It involves a case-by-case evaluation of both the intrinsic properties of the cell culture genetically modified or not and the probability that it may inadvertently or intentionally become infected with pathogenic micro-organisms. The latter hazard is predominant when adventitious contaminants are pathogenic or have a better capacity to persist in unfavourable conditions. Consequently, most of the containment measures primarily aim at protecting cells from adventitious contamination. Cell cultures known to harbour an infectious etiologic agent should be manipulated in compliance with containment measures recommended for the etiologic agent itself. The manipulation of cell cultures from human or primate origin necessitates the use of a type II biosafety cabinet. The scope of this chapter is to highlight aspects relevant for the risk assessment and to summarize the main biosafety recommendations and the recent technological advances allowing a mitigation of the risk for the handling of animal cell cultures.


Biosafety Risk assessment Risk management Contained use Genetically modified organisms Pathogenic organisms