After manufacturing cells in a bioreactor, bioprocessors need methods to capture that product. Using membranes and other conventional methods of separating the cells can lead to clogging, cost too much or just fail to be reliable. At the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in Australia, biomedical engineer Majid Ebrahimi Warkiani, PhD, and his colleagues connected two microfluidic systems to capture a high concentration of cells from a perfusion bioreactor.

Typically, a cell separator based on inertial microfluidics doesn’t clog, but it’s not efficient when the cell concentration gets high. By using two membrane-less microfiltration techniques, Warkiani and his team’s device still doesn’t clog but stays efficient at high cell densities. They reported higher “than 90% efficiency at the estimated cell density of 80 million cells” per milliliter. Although the scientists tested the system on CHO cells, it can be adjusted to various cell types and preparations.

“This new generation of membrane-less microfiltration systems offers new opportunities for efficient cell retention, particularly for sensitive cell lines or harvesting of unstable proteins,” says Warkiani. “The platform can be operated in small scale—down to 10 milliliters—or large scale—up to 100 liters. Given the continuous nature of the system, long-term cell cultures for various purposes are feasible.”

Currently, Warkiani plans to commercialize this technology. Still, he points out that “we certainly need to do some collaborations with stakeholders in this space to better demonstrate the power of this technology. Given the low cost of manufacturing them, I believe with a proper investment we can commercialize different versions to cater to different applications in the cell-processing sector.”

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