Cell culture technicians grow living cells in culture flasks, bioreactors, plates and other kinds of containers. The types of cells they grow can come from plants or animals. Sometimes cell culture technicians start cultures directly from tissues such as umbilical cords or tumor biopsies. Sometimes they grow and maintain cultured cells that are obtained from commercial suppliers and organizations such at the ATTC.
A specialized form of cell culture work involves maintaining cultures of embyronic stem cells. These cells are more challenging to grow in culture because they require specialized nutrients and chemicals.
Cell culture technicians are expected to be familiar with cell culture techniques, media preparation, tumor cell isolation, and molecular biology methods. For example, technicians that work with animal cells should be able to maintain mammalian and/or primary cell lines to be used in preclinical (In Vivo and In Vitro) experiments. Often cell culture technicians are skilled in diverse forms of microscopy since they use microscopes to count cells. Many also use fluorescence microscopy and stain cells with antibodies that bind to specific structures or substances that bind to DNA.
Familiarity with cGMPs and FDA guidelines for the pharmaceutical and biological industries is an advantage. Interpersonal skills are also critical since many times there are multiple researchers who will need to work with the cells. This type of work can be performed independently, or under close supervision. Some technicians also supervise manufacturing assistants. Since manufacturing can take place round the clock (24/7), some cell culture technicians might work either day or night shifts.