In Vivo-like Cell Growth
Corning’s R&D experts have also made advances in methods to improve the growth of primary cells and stem cells. The company launched the Ultra-Web™ synthetic surface technology in April 2007.
“We’ve heard from hundreds of cell biologists that most cells used today are grown in sterile environments, and they are no longer predictive of how cells react in the body,” says Beck. The Ultra-Web surface technology offers in vivo-like growth conditions that can lead to improved outcomes in cell culture and cell-based assays.
This artificial, 3D matrix consists of electrospun nylon fibers that resemble structural components within the basement membrane or extracellular matrix.
Corning developed Ultra-Web with two collaborators, Donaldson (www.donaldson.com) and SurModics (www.surmodics.com). The former company created the underlying nanofiber structure, and chemistry experts at SurModics treated the synthetic nanofiber with special polymers to facilitate cell growth. Corning then integrated the pieces and applied it to 96-well microplates and 100-mm tissue culture dishes to mimic in vivo cell growth conditions.
“When cells are placed on the treated nanofiber in our vessels, they think it is extracellular matrix,” notes Beck. Unlike other biological coatings, the fibrous topography of Ultra-Web is more stable, more consistent from lot to lot, and is made from animal-free components, reports Beck.
Higher density cell cultures can be grown in Corning’s new HYPERFlask™ vessel that grows 10 times more cells than a standard T175 flask, according to the company. A multilayer design has 10 equivalent layers, or flaskettes, each containing a gas-permeable cell growth layer. An air gap is incorporated between each flaskette for cells to obtain oxygen and expel carbon dioxide.
Each flaskette is treated with the Corning CellBIND® Surface to optimize cell attachment and growth. HYPERFlask vessels can be used manually or in the Automated Partnership SelecT™ cell culture system.
Another in vivo-like technology aims to systematically identify growth conditions for cell lines that refuse to be cultured or grow poorly in culture.
Cells are exposed to thousands of polymer blends, while scientists observe their ability to seed themselves. Then more polymer combinations are generated, and after several iterations, a tailor-made growth surface for a cell line is selected. “It’s a very elegant approach for cells to select what works for them instead of us intuiting what cells like,” says Beck.
In the past five years, Corning’s materials scientists, biophotonics researchers, and biologists have solved several major problems that hamper drug discovery and cell culture researchers. Feedback from customers helps to drive the innovations. “We are open to collaborations and ideas that other folks may have,” says Beck, “and we urge them to seek us out.”