Fish cells. Sashimi in a dish. If I had only known…

Blog entry

Welcome back, dear scientist. Today I am having sushi for lunch and it made me think about an often overlooked set of cell types that some biologists can be using to make their lives a little easier. Fish cells. Even though fish are easier to keep than mammals, they still have more problems and take longer to generate results than cells in culture. Today we’ll snoop around the world of fish cell culture.

Wolf and Quimby first isolated and maintained cells from a fish yet to be identified. Here’s a link:

Since the abstract is a whopping two sentence tome, I was unable to determine the species of fish used for this paper.  But subsequent studies used cells isolated from trout, chinook, and other salmon species, so I assume it would be safe to say Wolf and the gang used some sort of salmonid (fish from the salmon family) for their studies. I may never know as I am too cheap to pay the $35 Science wants for the article. Highway robbery, I tell you! But I digress…

So, what types of fishy cells are being grown in the lab? All kinds! Check it out–here’s one that talks about fish stem cells:

Here’s one that basically shows you that, if it’s a part of a fish, its cells can be grown in culture, including eyeballs, gonads, and squishy organs:

So who’s doing this stuff? I bet if you surveyed Gemini’s sales force (Bert? Whaddya say?), they may identify 10 labs across North America that use fish cells as part of their experimental arsenal. I admit that I wasn’t too sure what the answer would be, myself. I went with my go-to answer: Developmental biologists. But, I was somewhat surprised to find the answer wasn’t so much a cell-based lab, but an ecological one. Ecotoxicologists use fish cells to run toxicity studies. I think this is a great idea. Think about it: If you have a threatened or endangered species and you want to see what the hat company up the river is dumping into your fav fishy’s home, you wouldn’t want to test a litany of compounds on the fish themselves, right? Why not sacrifice a few for the good of the species and grind up their pieces/parts and put them in cell culture for testing? I would. I may want to, when I grow up. It sounds like a pretty cool and important job.

Lastly, you may wonder “What do they grow in? Water?” Nope. They grow in DMEM, Serum, and all that yummy stuff our mammalian cell lines thrive in. The folks at Gemini know what you need. The biggest difference is that you can grow fish cells on your desk at room temperature and not have to worry about them dying. Pretty cool, huh? If you’ve read this far, you’re probably not surprised that I would suggest you dispense of your beta fish that makes your desk so homey and relaxing, and replace it with fish cells. Totally rad, and would make a great conversation piece when you’re looking at someone across the desk from you, staring at your cell culture dish.

So, I bet you’re gearing up for the fall semester by now, if it hasn’t started already. Have fun and remember, somewhere, someone is doing something you’ve never heard of, and it may actually be of value to you. Look at me. I’m ready to go trout fishing to make some cell lines!