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The function of insulin in mammalian cell culture

The function of insulin in mammalian cell culture

Author: Karina Kristensen, M.Sc. Cell Biology, Novo Nordisk Pharmatech A/S

This article explores how insulin works in mammalian cell culture; in order to understand its actions in mammalian cell bio-production, it is essential to know that the action of insulin in mammalian cell culture is primarily through the binding and activation of IGF-1R.

Insulin and the related insulin-like growth factors IGF-I and IGF-II act on cells through binding to the insulin receptor (IR) and the type 1 IGF receptor (IGF-1R), expressed on the surface of a mammalian cell. Only the IR is activated by insulin at physiological concentration of insulin; higher concentrations of insulin trigger a mitogenic effect via the IGF-1R and result in a variety of effects via the native IR.

Physiologically, the role of insulin is primarily metabolic, while the IGFs are primarily growth factors. Recombinant insulin is added in mammalian cell culture at approximately 100 times the physiological concentration acting as a growth factor, with anti-apoptotic and mitogenic effects.

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