Novel gelatin microcarrier developed to enhance cell production

Researchers who developed the dissolvable microcarrier for large-scale cell production and expansion say it offers higher yield and cost-effectiveness compared to traditional methods.

Orange Mesenchymal stromal cell (MSC)

Mesenchymal stromal cell (MSC)

According to the developers, their newly developed dissolvable gelatin-based microcarrier has proven useful for expansion of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs). MSCs are of great interest for medical applications, as they can be isolated from adult tissues and expanded in culture to treat various ailments, including bone and cartilage defects or the body’s rejection of foreign bone-marrow and cells (graft versus host disease).

The developers of the microcarriers, Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART)’s Critical Analytics for Manufacturing Personalized-Medicine (CAMP) Interdisciplinary Research Group (IRG), said they can be fully dissolved in an enzymatic treatment. The dissolvability of the microcarriers eliminates an additional separation step that other systems require to retrieve the cells, which, according to the team, reduces the complexity of cell manufacturing.

The researchers report that the novel gelatin microcarrier showed higher yield and reduced cell loss at the cell harvesting step compared to commercial microcarriers, with comparable cell attachment efficiency and proliferation rate.

“Our study achieved over 90 percent harvest rate of cells grown on the gelatin microcarriers, which is significantly higher than the 50 to 60 percent harvest rate seen in current standards,” said Dr Ee Xien Ng, lead author of the paper and a CAMP alumnus. “Using gelatin microcarriers also achieved tight control over microcarrier dimensions (for example, microcarrier diameter and stiffness) that facilitate uniform environmental conditions for controlling consistent cell numbers per microcarrier.”

The research also showed that MSCs cultured by gelatin microcarriers retain critical quality attributes of retrieved cells, such as a higher degree of trilineage multipotency with more balanced differentiation performance compared to commercial microcarriers.

“Innovations in microcarriers will aid in the scalability of certain cell types such as mesenchymal stromal cells for cell-based therapy, including for regenerative medicine applications,” said Professor Krystyn J. Van Vliet, co-author of the paper as well as Lead Principal Investigator at CAMP and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Biological Engineering at MIT. “Developing a microcarrier platform for MSC culture has been a key part for SMART CAMP’s understanding and managing the critical quality attributes of these cell therapy products. We hope our findings help bring about better, more efficient and scalable cell therapies with predictable therapeutic outcomes for multiple patient needs, and high harvesting efficiency of those potent cells.”

While the study focused MSC culture and expansion, the team believe their research could potentially be extended for other types of anchorage-dependent cells.

Their discovery is explained in a paper published in Biotechnology Journal.