What is tissue culture and how is it changing the way we do agriculture?
28th Apr, 2021

Definition and types

Tissue culture refers to the biotech technique of using certain parts of an organism to propagate tissue in a growth medium. This exercise can be used for micropropagation, growth of a cell line, production of secondary metabolites, creation of better varieties in grains, etc. 

Tissue culture typically refers to the growth of animal cells, whereas plant tissue culture is specifically used for the propagation of plant-related cells.

Alternatively, tissue culture can be differentiated based purely upon technique and the component one tries to grow in an in-vitro environment. These components can range from undifferentiated cell mass (callus) to highly specific organs and embryos. Some of such types of cultures have been described below.

  • Callus culture – This refers to the propagation of an undifferentiated mass of cells, using an appropriate explant. Where explant refers to organic material taken from a  plant and grown on a suitable growth medium. Such cultures work on the delicate balance of growth hormones and sterility. It is essential to provide the ratios of said hormone or else the process is deemed to fail. This method can be used in producing secondary metabolites that can have potential medical or industrial use. Given their undifferentiated nature calluses are ideal candidates for genetic transformation. 

  • Organogenesis culture – This process refers to the proliferation of organs, such as roots and shoots using callus or an explant. Here too, the correct quantity of furth inducer hormones can be used to develop, in-vitro, the desired organ. For example, auxins like Indole Acetic acid, aids in shoot formation. Thus, having a higher ratio of auxins to other hormones will help in the proliferation of a stem. This culture helps in the growth of genetically modified variants into samplings facilitating their introduction into the environment. 

  • Protoplast culture – Here, protoplasts are cultivated in an appropriate environment, using the hanging drop method or culture chambers. Specifically, from a research standpoint, this culture can be utilized to study the process of formation of a cell wall and further developments in tissue formation. These protoplasts can be developed into artificial seeds as well, or through protoplast fusion, used to create new plant variety.

  • Primary cell culture – This can be described as the culture that is established through enzymatic or mechanical methods from animal or human tissue. The crucial character of such cultivation of cells is that the cells retain characteristics they had in the original tissue while being heterogeneous.

  • Secondary cell culture – This method pertains to the transfer of cells of the primary culture to a fresh culture media, a change in culture media, or the first culture obtained from the primary culture. These kinds of cultures can be utilized to create cell lines for research and developmental purposes.

Advantages of tissue culture

Tissue culture opens up new opportunities in agro biotech. Given the restrictions such as seasonal dependence, quality, and durability of crops, traditional agriculture faces limitations that can be eliminated through in-vitro propagation. Plant tissue culture can be used to create healthy samples from callus and put through the process of hardening to grow in a natural environment. This provides an avenue to make cash crops readily available for agriculture.

Moreover, challenging species of plant kingdom like certain orchids can be easily grown using plant tissue culture. Given the effectiveness of the process, it holds the promise of producing a large number of plant saplings in a small lab.

Given the understanding we possess concerning plant metabolites, one can experiment with media and hormone constitution to elucidate plant metabolites that can have antimicrobial or antiviral capabilities. Not to mention, that there is a wide range of plant metabolites that haven’t been explored for their unique nature. Plant tissue can help in the exploration of such metabolites by eliminating lengthy extraction procedures that call for the maceration of plant material.

Furthermore, Biotechnology and its relationship with modern agriculture have yielded breakthroughs that have become the foundation for agro biotech. These developments aren’t limited to plants but encompass the animal kingdom as well. The potential of tissue culture is such that a disease-free or disease-resistant variant of a particular species can be grown in vitro to supplement crop failures, loss of livestock in dairy and poultry farming by introducing better protection against diseases.

Promises of the future

With biotechnology and its techniques being at the peak, it is now, it is only natural to assume that tissue culture is set to play a major role in our lives moving forward. This process is no longer just viewed from a research standpoint but rather as a means to produce essential products. Given its acclaim, tissue culture has been adopted by industry leaders as an alternative method of producing components for their products.

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