A Guide to Immortalized Cells

By definition, an immortalized cell is a cell that underwent a manipulation process, so it may proliferate continuously. This guide will help you better understand what these cells are as well as the benefits of choosing them.


Immortalized cells undergo a manipulation process that causes them to be able to be cultured for prolonged periods of time. These cells grow in vitro, meaning they grow under glass in a laboratory rather naturally. However, immortal cells may undergo the process naturally outside of a laboratory as well, but these aren’t the cells that are captured and sold. In fact, the ones that are sold are part of biotechnology because of the process they use to immortalize them. The ones found naturally are tumor cells because they have a chromosomal abnormality that causes that to proliferate without stopping.

Moreover, when immortal cells divide in a laboratory rapidly after the manipulation process, they continue to divide until they fill up the entire petri dish. This is when a scientist must split the specimen through a specialized process, so the cells can continue to divide.

This particular type of cell may come from various sources. However, they have one trait similarity — a mutation. The simplest way to have a cell become immortal is to infect it with a virus, such as a lentivirus. Adenoviruses have been used for this process in the past, but these viruses aren’t as safe as lentiviruses. In addition, to immortalize a cell, a biotechnological engineer may also use an artificial expression of certain proteins or hybridoma technology. This particular technology produces antibody-producing B cell lines, specifically. One prime example of this process is when an antibody-producing B cell was fused with a myeloma — a type of cancer cell in the B line.

The immortal cells, however, aren’t similar to stem cells. Stem cells also have the ability to continue to divide indefinitely, but these cells form as a standard part of multicellular organism development. The cells that have undergone the immortalization process are not.

Uses of Immortalized Cells 

Since these cells continue to divide, they’re a cost-efficient way for someone to conduct research. In science, they serve a variety of purposes. For one, these cells may be used to test the toxicity of a compound. They’re also beneficial in experimenting to find out the toxicity of a drug. These cells are even used for eukaryotic protein production.

Keep in mind that these cells are beneficial because they guarantee consistency between experimentation. When fresh cultures are used, it can lead to variations between experiments. With immortal cells, the cells are always the same, so no variations occur.

This guide should help you better understand what an immortal cell is, how it becomes immortal, and why select this type of cell.