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Encapsulating stem cells

Researchers devise new strategy for large-scale cell production

Oeiras, 05.09.11

Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) are very especial, powerful cells, with the capacity to grow indefinitely and to give rise into any cell of the human body.  These characteristics have made them extremely attractive for regenerative medicine, tissue engineering and drug discovery applications but efficient protocols for large-scale production are still needed to fulfill such promises. ITQB/IBET researchers from the Animal Cell Technology Unit, in collaboration with Cellartis AB (Goteborg, Sweden), developed a novel integrated bioprocess for the robust and scalable expansion and cryopreservation of human embryonic stem cells. The strategy, described in PLoS One journal, involves cell microencapsulation in alginate. 

An important requirement for the cultivation of these stem cells is, in fact, the need for maintaining cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions as well as to ensure a tightly controlled culture environment. In their work, researchers encapsulated hESCs already immobilized on spherical supports (microcarriers) and cultivated the hESC-microcapsules in stirred tank bioreactors. At the end, this 3D culture strategy ensured high expansion ratios (20-fold increase in cell concentration) and high cell recovery yields (>70%) after cryopreservation, without compromising the quality of stem cells.

Researchers believe that this integrated bioprocess represents an important step for the establishment of more robust stem cell production platforms, hopefully contributing to enlarge the application of hESCs in regenerative medicine, tissue engineering and drug discovery.


Original Article

PLoS ONE 6(8): e23212. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023212

Microencapsulation Technology: A Powerful Tool for Integrating Expansion and Cryopreservation of Human Embryonic Stem Cells

Margarida Serra, Cláudia Correia, Rita Malpique, Catarina Brito, Janne Jensen, Petter Bjorquist, Manuel J. T. Carrondo, Paula M. Alves

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