Primary Cells & Cell Lines

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Primary Cells are human or animal cells collected directly from tissues or organs and cultured or maintained in vitro for experimentation.

Cell Lines are cultures of human or animal cells that can be propagated repeatedly or indefinitely. Cell lines that can be passaged and grown indefinitely are referred to as immortalized cell lines.

Requirements for working with Human and Non-Human Primate (NHP) cells

Work must be conducted within BSL-2 containment and the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens program

While most cell lines themselves are not hazardous, human and NHP cells can carry a range of biohazardous agents and are therefore interpreted by most regulatory and advisory agencies as potentially infectious materials:

In alignment with OSHA, ATCC, CDC, and NIH interpretations and guidelines, UWM considers all human and non-human primate (NHP) cell lines & organ cultures to be Risk Group 2 materials that must be handled under Biosafety Level 2 (BSL-2) containment and in alignment with the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.

Submit your work for approval by the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC)

PIs and Instructors who wish to work with human or NHP cell lines or organ cultures must submit a biosafety protocol to the IBC for review and approval before beginning work

  • Submit to the IBC online via iManager. Click here to access the submission system and submission instructions. Fill out the form as completely as possible, and provide any additional pertinent information that may assist the committee in assessing risks associated with your work.
  • The IBC will determine the final biosafety level appropriate for the work proposed. Research should not begin until IBC approval is granted.
  • The IBC may consider petitions to lower containment to BSL-1 if submissions include documentation of screening for bloodborne pathogens conducted at the PIs expense. Submission of this documentation does not guarantee that lower containment will be appropriate.

Complete required training

Biosafety and OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens trainings are required for all individuals working with human or NHP cells & cell lines. Find complete biosafety training requirements on the Biosafety Training webpage.

Requirements for working with other animal cells

Other animal cell lines may be handled at BSL-1 unless known to be infected with or carrying a biohazardous agent, in which case the cells must be handled at the BSL appropriate for the agent. If infected with or carrying a biohazardous agent, this work must also be submitted to and reviewed by the IBC.