Bioprocess development for mass production of size-controlled human pluripotent stem cell aggregates in stirred suspension bioreactor

Tissue Eng Part C Methods. 2012 Nov;18(11):831-51. doi: 10.1089/ten.TEC.2012.0161. Epub 2012 Jun 13.


Current protocols for the scalable suspension culture of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) are limited by multiple biological and technical challenges that need to be addressed before their use in clinical trials. To overcome these challenges, we have developed a novel bioprocess platform for large-scale expansion of human embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cell lines as three-dimensional size-controlled aggregates. This novel bioprocess utilizes the stepwise optimization of both static and dynamic suspension culture conditions. After screening eight xeno-free media in static suspension culture and optimizing single-cell passaging in dynamic conditions, the scale-up from a static to a dynamic suspension culture in the stirred bioreactor resulted in a two- to threefold improvement in expansion rates, as measured by cell counts and metabolic activity. We successfully produced size-specific aggregates through optimization of bioreactor hydrodynamic conditions by using combinations of different agitation rates and shear protectant concentrations. The expansion rates were further improved by controlling oxygen concentration at normoxic conditions, and reached a maximum eightfold increase for both types of hPSCs. Subsequently, we demonstrated a simple and rapid scale-up strategy that produced clinically relevant numbers of hPSCs (∼2×10(9) cells) over a 1-month period by the direct transfer of "suspension-adapted frozen cells" to a stirred suspension bioreactor. We omitted the required preadaptation passages in the static suspension culture. The cells underwent proliferation over multiple passages in the demonstrated xeno-free dynamic suspension culture while maintaining their self-renewal capabilities, as determined by marker expressions and in vitro spontaneous differentiation. In conclusion, suspension culture protocols of hPSCs could be used to mass produce homogenous and pluripotent undifferentiated cells by identification and optimization of key bioprocess parameters that are complemented by a simple and rapid scale-up platform.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bioreactors*
  • Cell Aggregation / drug effects
  • Cell Culture Techniques / instrumentation*
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods*
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Size* / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Culture Media, Conditioned / pharmacology
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Lactates / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Oxygen / pharmacology
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Suspensions


  • Culture Media, Conditioned
  • Lactates
  • Suspensions
  • Glucose
  • Oxygen