Biological Resources of Living and Cryopreserved Cells

The Biological Resources of Living and Cryopreserved Cells (RBCell) of the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle stores microorganisms or cells for studying the mechanisms of life (e.g. genetic information, cellular and metabolic processes).

The Muséum’s RBCell group comprises 7 collections: Chemical library and Extract library, Unicellular eukaryotes, Amphibian cell lines, Microalgae and cyanobacteria, Vertebrate semen and embryos, Fungal strains, Vertebrate tissues and cryopreserved cells. Each of these collections is the responsibility of a head of collection, supported by a technical and scientific team.
The conservation process developed by the RBCell group is situated within the current context of biological diversity preservation, in which the Muséum plays a central role nationally. These collections are a remarkable aid to describing this biodiversity and its modifications in a changing environmental context.
The collections of the RBCell group are often small in terms of the number of specimens or samples, but are of great interest for posterity and biodiversity conservation. Indeed, these collections are based on samples taken in the environment and stored in a functional form (e.g. live or cryopreserved cells or microorganisms, semen, cryopreserved tissues, etc.).
These collections are an aid to research into the cellular mechanisms of life, containing not only genetic information but also all the cellular and metabolic potential of the cells or organisms. The products of this metabolism are metabolites and molecules, providing a reservoir for scientific and industrial application.

The live cell collection was started at the Muséum in the early 20th century: in 1929 with the formation of a freshwater Algothèque (a library for the preservation of live algae) and in 1950 with the creation of the fungal strain collection (preservation of live or lyophilised strains).
The creation of the RBCell group in recent years has enabled us to make these particular collections accessible. They are often dispersed across the research laboratories of the Muséum, the CNRS, the IRD or universities. Through harvesting missions in the field, isolating new specimens of interest for fundamental and industrial research, and collection donations, the RBCell group has considerably increased its number of specimens (over 40%) since its creation. Thus, over 10,000 live or cryopreserved specimens (e.g. strains, cells, tissues and cell lines), as well as molecules or natural substance extracts are currently stored in the group’s collections.

The RBCell collections are a reservoir of live material that interests researchers from various disciplines (taxonomy, ecology, biogeochemistry, ecotoxicology, chemistry, biochemistry, etc.), but also industrialists due to the specimens’ functional properties or their production of useful molecules or metabolites, in a number of different areas (cosmetics, food, sustainable or alternative energy, etc.).
These collections are also an aid to the Muséum’s teaching activities (Master’s, Doctoral School) as well as sharing knowledge and findings with the general public.
There is a great deal of activity surrounding the RBCell group’s collections. This is due to the number of actions performed by the heads of the collections and their teams (around 13,000 per year) in the field of strain maintenance, such as renewing the culture medium, typing the specimens, updating the databases, preservation work, isolation of new specimens, cryopreserved cell revival tests, etc. For its activities, the group relies on Muséum staff members who are particularly committed and motivated.