All Cancer Center members requiring cell culture or molecular biology-related services, reagents, or supplies in their research use the TCF on a regular basis. During the past 30 years, significant increases in usage were observed in all of the following areas of responsibility:
- Training and technical assistance for researchers who require additional cell culture skills or expertise.
- Expert consultation to researchers with regard to cell culture, media, new techniques, or troubleshooting.
- Quality-controlled media, serum, solutions, and cell cultures for research at a minimum cost.
- Large-scale cell culture capabilities (using bioreactors and other techniques) for researchers requiring large numbers of cells or large volumes of conditioned medium containing cell metabolites, proteins, or monoclonal antibodies from hybridomas.
- Access to an economical, centralized, cell repository for well-characterized, quality-controlled mammalian and other cell types for research. This includes programmed-rate freezing of cells, and the recovery of cells from cryogenic storage as well as long-term liquid nitrogen cryogenic storage of investigators’ cell lines and other research samples.
- Production of immortalized human B-cell lines from patient blood samples using Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). This important service has grown significantly and has use for public health and clinical applications as well as basic science research. This is indicative of the continuing efforts of the TCF to respond to the changing needs of Cancer Center users. The TCF now supports nine major clinical research studies and currently transforms over 6000 samples per year with a greater than 99% success rate. The TCF has been at the forefront in implementing and test-confirming compliance to the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations with regard to these and other similar studies that it supports.
- Full testing capabilities, including cGMP-level sterility testing methods, screening of cell lines for mycoplasma contamination, endotoxin screening and quantitation, isotyping of monoclonal antibodies, and isolation and identification of bacterial and fungal contaminants in cell culture through a collaboration with the UNC Hospitals bacteriology laboratory.
- On-site access to restriction and modifying enzymes and other molecular biology related research materials from major suppliers at significant discounts. Over 75,000 line item products are currently available from eight major vendors. Over 700 items are in stock on site.
- Training and oversight of three high-end Zeiss fluorescence microscopes with very high resolution digital imaging capabilities. Two of the microscopes are upright orientation models and the other is an inverted model.
The TCF currently occupies approximately 5000 net square feet (nsf) of laboratory space, not including warm room, cold room, or the specialized microscope space, that consists of six rooms that accommodate media preparation, cell culture manipulations, testing procedures, B-cell immortalization services, or other activities that must be functionally separated. A walk-in incubator and walk-in cold storage room are both dedicated to TCF functions. A main administrative area serves as the pick-up area for users to obtain research materials, place orders, or consult with TCF staff.
The facility has seven biosafety cabinets, twelve double-chamber CO2 incubators, two automated cell counters, four specialized cell bioreactors, large and small volume centrifuges, and microscopes to accommodate a wide range of cell culture activities. All microscopes in the TCF’s program have high-resolution digital cameras and digital image capture capabilities. The facility has temperature-critical storage space for samples or materials as follows; a +37°C walk-in warm room, a +4°C walk-in cold room, eight –20°C upright freezers, and three –80°C upright freezers. The TCF has nine liquid nitrogen storage freezers that accommodate the facility’s general cell repository, long-term liquid nitrogen storage for Cancer Center members, primary and back-up storage for immortalized human lymphoblast cultures generated from clinical based research protocols and other human genetics repository functions. There is also a programmable-rate freezer for the automated cryopreservation of cell cultures for the TCF repository cells and for users’ cultures.
The TCF is well equipped and well staffed to meet the current and future specialized research support requirements of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center members, the UNC research community in general, and other area research-oriented institutions