To this day, the concept of continuous bioprocessing has been applied mostly to the manufacture of molecular biologics such as proteins, growth factors, and secondary metabolites with biopharmaceutical uses. The present work now sets to explore the potential application of continuous bioprocess methods to source large numbers of human adherent cells with potential therapeutic value. To this purpose, we developed a smart multifunctional surface coating capable of controlling the attachment, proliferation, and subsequent self-detachment of human corneal stromal cells. This system allowed the maintenance of cell cultures under steady-state growth conditions, where self-detaching cells were continuously replenished by the proliferation of those remaining attached. This facilitated a closed, continuous bioprocessing platform with recovery of approximately 1% of the total adherent cells per hour, a yield rate that was maintained for 1 month. Moreover, both attached and self-detached cells were shown to retain their original phenotype. Together, these results represent the proof-of-concept for a new high-throughput, high-standard, and low-cost biomanufacturing strategy with multiple potentials and important downstream applications.
Keywords: cell self-release; continuous bioprocessing; corneal stromal cells; peptide amphiphiles; retinoic acid; smart materials.