Newly developed optical interferometer monitors large-scale stem cell manufacturing

An optical interferometer can monitor the production of stem cells that are being grown in liquid on tiny polymer spheres.

Sep 21st, 2015
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University of Huddersfield (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England) scientist Dr. Haydn Martin, a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Huddersfield’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Centre and head of the optical instrumentation research group, has developed an optical interferometer that can monitor the production of stem cells that are being grown in liquid on tiny polymer spheres. Reliable, large-scale production of high-quality stem cells is vital for a wide range of medical therapies.

The use of spheres as micro-carriers in a bioreactor means that there is vast increase in the number of surfaces on which the cells can grow. But it is vital to monitor their growth so that the yield and quality are maximized. The interferometer that developed is inserted into the growth medium and takes images as the tank is stirred.

Dr. Haydn Martin and the interferometer.

“What we hope to be able to do is to monitor the confluence of the cells on the spheres—or how much of a sphere is covered by cells—because once it is covered, no more cells will grow on it,” Martin says. It might also be possible, he says, to use interferometry to monitor the morphology (shape) of the cells, which would be of great importance in ensuring their maximum yield and health.

A first version of the interferometer has been tested at Loughborough University (Loughborough, Leicestershire, England). The next step is to return the device to Huddersfield, where a high-power pulse laser will be fitted and experiments conducted in monitoring the cells as they are being stirred in the bioreactor.

The project has received funding of £245,000 (more than $375,000) from the EPSRC.

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