Project Title: 3D Cell Culture of the Sea Squirt Ciona intestinalis
Mentor: Steven Irvine, Ph.D.
Abstract: Sea squirts, such as Ciona intestinalis, are the closest invertebrate organisms to vertebrates phylogenetically, and they have many attributes that make them an effective model organism for genetic research. Until now, cell culture for C. intestinalis and many other marine organisms has met with limited success. For this reason, the Irvine lab has focused on cultivating improved methods of C. intestinalis cell culture using alternatives to traditional petri dishes and media formulas. Embryos and ovarian cells were seeded in Microtissues 3D agarose gel petri dishes containing L-15 media and serum collected from C. intestinalis hemolymph (equivalent to blood in invertebrates) and allowed to grow until factors arose that prevented them from developing further. The most effective combination of culture methods for cell growth was 3D petri dishes containing media with C. intestinalis serum in a filtered seawater base, which allowed us to maintain primary cultures for 30 days. Future research will investigate the effectiveness of different serum concentrations in the media as well as expand into cell culture of other tissues such as heart and muscle cells.