Growing Cells in Hollow Fibers


To optimize the output of cell cultures, bioprocessors always look for improvements in bioreactors. Traditional bioreactors grow cells in bags, flasks, or stir tanks, but it can be done in other ways.

Last month, Colorado-based Terumo Blood and Cell Technologies announced a new bioreactor, the Quantum Flex Cell Expansion System, which grows cells in a closed system based on hollow-fiber perfusion technology. Although other hollow-fiber bioreactors are available, Delara Motlagh, PhD, general manager, cell therapy technologies, calls this bioreactor “one of the first automated expansion systems that enables cell-therapy commercialization from process development through manufacturing.”

The semipermeable hollow fibers, with an inner diameter of about 200 microns and 50-micron thick walls, remove cell waste and transport nutrients. According to Motlagh, this technology “mimics the body’s environment to grow cells.” For example, she says that this technology “fosters growth of healthier cells with improved access to fresh media and oxygen.”

This hollow-fiber bioreactor can be used with cells in suspension or adherent cells, such as mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs). Such applications already interest many scientists. For example, scientists from Rutgers University and PBS Biotech described potency assays that can predict the in vivo impact of bioprocess-produced MSCs and help a bioprocessor with scale-up decisions.

In all bioprocessing, a smooth scaleup is crucial. When a bioprocessor can move from development through manufacturing with the same technology, Motlagh says that “brings reduced cost and risk of unanticipated process deviations in later phases of clinical trials.” She and her colleagues focused on that capability in designing the Quantum Flex.

All along the lifecycle of a potential new therapy, Motlagh says that a bioreactor should “provide and maintain a consistent and controlled environment for the cells in culture.” That’s the key goal for any bioreactor.

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