Periodic harvesting of embryonic stem cells from a hollow-fiber membrane based four-compartment bioreactor

Biotechnol Prog. Jan-Feb 2016;32(1):141-51. doi: 10.1002/btpr.2182. Epub 2015 Nov 3.


Different types of stem cells have been investigated for applications in drug screening and toxicity testing. In order to provide sufficient numbers of cells for such in vitro applications a scale-up of stem cell culture is necessary. Bioreactors for dynamic three-dimensional (3D) culture of growing cells offer the option for culturing large amounts of stem cells at high densities in a closed system. We describe a method for periodic harvesting of pluripotent stem cells (PSC) during expansion in a perfused 3D hollow-fiber membrane bioreactor, using mouse embryonic stem cells (mESC) as a model cell line. A number of 100 × 10(6) mESC were seeded in bioreactors in the presence of mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEF) as feeder cells. Over a cultivation interval of nine days cells were harvested by trypsin perfusion and mechanical agitation every second to third culture day. A mean of 380 × 10(6) mESC could be removed with every harvest. Subsequent to harvesting, cells continued growing in the bioreactor, as determined by increasing glucose consumption and lactate production. Immunocytochemical staining and mRNA expression analysis of markers for pluripotency and the three germ layers showed a similar expression of most markers in the harvested cells and in mESC control cultures. In conclusion, successful expansion and harvesting of viable mESC from bioreactor cultures with preservation of sterility was shown. The present study is the first one showing the feasibility of periodic harvesting of adherent cells from a continuously perfused four-compartment bioreactor including further cultivation of remaining cells.

Keywords: 3D bioreactor culture; cell expansion; cell harvest; stem cells.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bioreactors
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods*
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cell Proliferation*
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Mice
  • Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology