03.01.2021 duration: 3 min

Chinese hamster ovary cell – Definition, History & Potential

Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells have been cultured and manipulated for use in pharmaceutical compounds for decades. While they are used in studies of toxicity screening or nutrition, they are very popular in the expression of recombinant antibodies.

In fact, CHO cells are the best choice as a mammalian host for industrial production of recombinant protein therapeutics. Why? They are highly efficient in terms of yield. But more about the potential of this mammalian host in gene expression later in this article.

First, we will give you an introduction to the history of CHO cells and an explanation of what a Chinese hamster ovary cell actually is.

What is a CHO cell?

As the name suggests, Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells are derived from the ovary of a small rodent called the Chinese hamster.

Due to their similarity to the human cell system, CHO cells are used in biological and medical research, primarily such as genetic studies, toxicity screening and nutrition and gene expression.

One of the CHO cells main objectives is to express recombinant proteins. They can produce recombinant protein on a scale of 3-10 grams per liter of CHO cells culture.

Compounds on the basis of CHO cells are suitable for human applications, which is why they are used in the production of therapeutic proteins. 

Chinese hamster ovary cells remain a popular choice in the efficient production of:

  • Biotherapeutics
  • Antibodies (particularly recombinant antibodies)
  • APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients)

CHO cells form the vital basis of a vast number of applications and are perfect tools for research and development. While mice and rats have gradually become more predominant, CHO cells generated and modified in labs are still being used in a vast number of medical compounds. 

Chinese hamster – the animal it is all about

The Chinese hamster (cricetulus griseus) is a rodent native to the deserts of northern China and Mongolia.

Unlike other hamsters with their stubby tails, the Chinese hamster flaunts an uncommonly long tail of approximately 20 to 30 mm (0.8 to 1.3 inches) and is generally longer. It is a solitary animal, with a life expectancy of approximately two to three years. 

Researchers have found the cell structure of the Chinese hamster to be similar to that of the human body. As such, they have proven to be an ideal tool in the development and production of pharmaceuticals.

It hardly comes as a surprise then that with regards to the industrial-scale production of recombinant protein compounds, CHO cells are the most commonly used cells derived from mammalian hosts. 

The history of CHO cells

The choice of the right host for the biological synthesis of chemical compounds or proteins is a crucial factor in the production of pharmaceuticals.

This is why the cells of Chinese hamsters are the first choice in pharmaceutical research and development. In the history of antibodies CHO cells have been used for lab purposes from as early as 1919 and used to be the most commonly used lab animal. 

By the way: While the use of animals for lab research may sound cruel, in reality there are far less animals that see a lab from the inside than could be assumed.

Most CHO cells were isolated from an ovary once and have been multiplied by cultivation every since – without harming a single animal during the entire production process for CHO cells biopharmaceuticals. 

Interested in recombinant antibodies?

    The potential of Chinese hamster ovary cells

    Chinese hamster ovary cells offer several advantages, the most important being their ability to produce proteins with complex bioactive placental tissue matrixes (PTMs) that are similar to those produced in humans.

    As an added benefit, CHO cells are easy to grow in large-scale cell cultures under defined conditions, rendering them ideal for GMP procedures.

    With their tolerance to variations in parameters such as pH, oxygen levels, temperature or pressure, they are the ideal cell for large-scale culture while at the same time offering high recombinant protein yields and specific productivity.

    Thanks to these characteristics as well as constant progress and improvement, CHO cells cultures today offer large-scale expression in a relatively short timespan. CHO cells antibody production can be tailored to the respective customer’s requirements.

    evitria offers recombinant antibodies expressed in CHO cells

    As a leading service provider for recombinant antibody expression in CHO cells, evitria combines Swiss thoroughness with an innovative spirit.

    In line with the requirements of today’s market, the objective is to offer both a fast project execution and highest quality standards, in other words: Maximum quality delivered in a minimum of time:

    Fast project execution …

    … applies to all phases from project inception to shipment of the final product:

    • Project start (0-1 business days)
    • Pilot study (15-20 business days)
    • Large-scale antibody production (5-10 business days)
    • Purification (2-3 business days)
    • Final analytics (2-3 business days)
    • Shipment (1-2 business days)

    Highest quality standards …

    … are adhered to and delivered throughout all processes of every project. evitria focuses on one service only, namely the transient antibody expression in CHO cells. This allows customers to expect guaranteed delivery with respect to:

    • Turnaround time
    • Material quantity
    • Exceptional quality

    From the Swiss headquarters, evitria delivers worldwide and provides high quality CHO cells for the use in an ever-growing portfolio of biotech drugs.

    Next article 7 facts about CHO cells you didn’t yet know

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