Researchers at Newcastle University in the UK have developed a new cell culture technique that allows scientists to produce enormous quantities of cells using a very small growth area. The key to the method is a “peptide amphiphile” coating that allows cells to grow and then “peel away” and detach from the growth surface, leaving space for more cells to grow. The method could be very useful in growing the huge numbers of cells required for upcoming cell therapies.
Cell therapy, using regenerative stem cells, holds enormous promise, but at present it is difficult to grow the huge numbers of cells required. Traditionally, cells are grown in batches inside plastic flasks before being treated using enzymes or chemicals to detach them from the flask. The number of cells grown per batch is limited by the space in each flask and the lab space needed to store and manage the flasks. Millions of patients could benefit from cardiac cell therapy, for example, but it has been estimated that a growth area equivalent to Central London and Midtown Manhattan running simultaneously would be required to produce enough cells.
This new technique approaches things a little differently. The researchers developed a “peptide amphiphile” coating that lets cells growing on it to detach themselves once they reach a certain stage of growth, meaning that they float away and can be collected from the liquid medium above. As one cell floats away, it leaves space for another cell to grow into, meaning that a flask can be transformed from a single-use piece of equipment, to a continuous source of cells.
“This allows us to move away, for the first time, from the batch production of cells to an unremitting process,” says Che Connon, a researcher involved in the study. “Remarkably, with this continuous production technique even a culture surface the size of a penny can, over a period of time, generate the same number of cells as a much larger-sized flask. With our new technology, one square meter would produce enough cells to treat 4,000 patients, while traditional methods would require an area equivalent to a football pitch!”
“There is a fantastically high number of patients in need of cell therapy, such as those suffering from heart, cartilage, skin and cancer related diseases,” says Martina Miotto, first author on the study. “Our new technology provides a much-needed solution while saving costs, reducing materials and improving the quality and the standardisation of the final product.”
Study in journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces: Developing a Continuous Bioprocessing Approach to Stromal Cell Manufacture…