03-025: Micro-droplet Cell Culture Technique

Scientists at George Mason University have developed a hybrid process for cultivating cells. This method provides for growth of both prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms and is particularly suited to the cultivations of microbial, fungal, and bacterial cells in an aseptic environment.

Cells are cultivated in a plurality of individual isolated microdroplets in a liquid media that in essence provides a large number of small cell culture reactors. The formation of the micro-droplets occur by combining a liquid media inoculated with cell cultures and a hydrophobic solid such as silicon dioxide whereby a coating process transpires creating a slurry-like liquid. Space between the coated microdroplets provides adequate aeration although the introduction of other gases to optimize aeration can be integrated. Timing and the means of introducing inoculated media and hydrophobic particles can be varied to conform too existing large-scale processes in place and to regulate the size of the micro-droplets. The micro-droplets are cultured either by a batch or continuous flow and there is no need to concentrate cultures or remove hydrophobic particles in some applications. Consideration can also be given to maintaining cultivated cells within the hydrophobic micro-droplets for storage.

Market Significance:
The biotechnology industry is under constant pressure to increase efficiency, reduce production costs, and speed time to market. Faster, cleaner, and more efficient processes improve supply, lower costs, and increase profits. The micro-droplet cell culture technique addresses each of these industry challenges. The process exploits the most productive features of both surface and submerged cell culture methods to produce microorganism or tissue culture cells on a large scale while eliminating negative features inherent in both processes. Benefits include lower costs of production due to minimized space and effort, portability, reduced risk of contamination, and increased production yields since the process delivers extremely concentrated cultures. This process is well suited to large-scale production and storage and can be implemented throughout the "bio-processing" industry including vaccine and drug production, bioremediation, bio-mining, bio-extraction, bio-recovery, and bio-prospecting.