Physiological Oxygen: Historical and Molecular Perspective for Stem Cell Culture

  • Senior Global Cell Culture Scientist, Thermo Fisher Scientific
      Mary Kay Bates is a Senior Global Cell Culture Scientist with Thermo Fisher Scientific, where she provides cell culture expertise to colleagues and customers. Her knowledge is based on twenty years of experience in academic and industrial cell and molecular biology labs, focusing on cancer and gene therapy, authoring several publications. Mary Kay holds an M.S. in microbiology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and has presented seminars at institutes around the world.


    For many decades, cell lines have been cultured in standard CO2 incubators at “normal” atmospheric oxygen concentrations of about 21%. But oxygen concentrations in the human or animal body are much lower, varying from as low as 1-2 % up to about 12%, depending on the tissue microenvironment. Oxygen concentration affects metabolism, proliferation, differentiation, disease progression and more. Controlling oxygen in vitro is increasingly important in biological function and disease modeling, pharmaceutical development and production, cell therapy, and of course in culturing stem cells. Creating hypoxia is critical to maintain pluripotency, control differentiation, limit oxidative damage and more. In this talk, we:

    • Review history and advances in understanding oxygen concentration in vivo and how hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) modulates the cell’s response.
    • Present examples demonstrating the effects of hypoxia on stem cells and primary cells, including better cell growth, less differentiation and less oxidative damage.
    • Explain how “tri-gas” CO2 incubators provide a physiological oxygen environment.

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