​The History of Tissue Culture: Past, Present, Future

3rd Jun 2021

​The History of Tissue Culture: Past, Present, Future


The tissue culture of plants has been one of the breakthroughs in the history of plant research. It’s an advanced technology that allows the regeneration of a whole plant from just a few cells! It helped scientists to protect endangered species, conserve plant genomes, and proved to be an asset in agriculture.

Today, the technology is a source of earning for several giant biotech companies, low-scale companies, enthusiasts, and hobbyists. But, do you know how it all started? How did scientists meticulously work to make it happen? How did it evolve over the years and how scientists are using the tissue culture technique today? If not, then this article has the answers. And not only this! You will learn what are the future possibilities in this area and what more young scientists breaking into the field can do. Let’s hit it!

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Tissue Culture in The Past

  • In 1902, Gottlieb Haberlandt proposed the theoretical basis of plant tissue culture. He mentioned how the cell culturing of plants can help to understand the properties and potential of a cell that builds the whole plant. He explained how the technique can help scientists understand the complex processes of plants and their interrelation with other organisms and their environment.

However, Haberlandt wasn't able to actually showcase his theory through an experiment. He experimented with some differentiated cells and photosynthetic leaf cells, which proved to be unsuccessful attempts. Even still, Gottlieb predicted that the use of vegetative cells can be a better way to achieve an artificial embryo. As time went on, Haberlandt was recognized as the father of tissue culture for his proposed ideas and concepts


  • In 1922, Kotte, a student of Haberlandt, with Robbins introduced a new approach of using explants with meristematic cells and succeeded in culturing isolated root tips. Soon after, embryo culture and the concept of precocious germination also came into the picture.
  • The technologies on which we rely today weren’t discovered until the 1940s. The era between 1940 to 1960 marked the development of new techniques. The existing techniques developed until then were also improved. The discoveries made in these years include:
  • Use coconut water for the tissue culture of young embryos and other recalcitrant tissues.
  • Callus culture of several species.
  • Discovery of plant hormones and their use in tissue culture. It helped to culture other plants that failed in tissue culture earlier.
  • Single-cell culture.
  • Development of techniques to in vitro culture floral and seed parts.
  • Development of in vitro pollination and fertilization techniques.
  • Isolation and culture of plant protoplasts.
  • The major application of the developed techniques was recognized between 1970-1980. It included the study of cell behavior, plant modification and improvement, pathogen-free plants and germplasm storage, clonal propagation, and product formation.


Tissue culture in present and recent present era

You must have heard of a quote or phrase: There is always some room for improvement. And in science, there is always room to make discoveries and inventions (Well, this one is mine!!). The 21st century of tissue culture is all about improvement in existing techniques and the introduction of some fresh concepts of tissue culture. Between the 1990-21st century, the tissue culture application expanded in culturing more plants.

  • Tissue culture of all types of plants including cereals and grasses, legumes, vegetable crops, potato, temperate and tropical fruits, plantation crops, and ornamentals.
  • Development of cryopreservation technology for germplasm storage.
  • Improvement in artificial seed technology.
  • Development of medicinal plant cell culture techniques.
  • In-depth understanding of somatic embryogenesis and organogenesis.
  • Application of tissue culture in genetic transformation of plants and production of pathogen-free plants.
  • Use of bioreactors to culture cells in an automated environment to produce secondary compounds.

The future of tissue culture

The plant tissue culture offers a wide opportunity to young scientists for several improvements and developments in this technology. The use of tissue culture technology is a costly process. So, the effort can be made to improve the current technologies and transform them into a comparatively cheaper technique. This should be done without affecting the productivity and success percentage of the technique in culturing plants. Another way can be the development of new techniques with improved productivity and cost-effectiveness.

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Let’s see some examples.

Plants are a huge source of medicinal products. An improved technique might help scientists to discover new secondary metabolites in the plant. The technology of cryopreservation is rapidly developing technology. But, to improve this technology and make it cost-effective, in depth understanding of the technique is required. This is a challenging but exciting project for the young scientists breaking into the field.

An improvement in the existing tissue culture technologies can help to synthesize some essentially required proteins. It can be used to manipulate the environmental conditions for better control over protein level and quality.

Tissue culture is a highly commercialized technique worldwide but it needs several improvements to increase the success percentage and cut down cost per plant production. So, there’s a need for low-cost tissue culture options at all stages including acclimatization.

Happy Culturing!!


  1. Thorpe, T. A. (2013). History of Plant Cell Culture. Plant Tissue Culture, 1–22. doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-415920-4.00001-3
  2. Yancheva, S., & Kondakova, V. (2018). Plant Tissue Culture Technology: Present and Future Development. Bioprocessing of Plant In Vitro Systems, 39–63. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-54600-1_16

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