Continuous microcarrier-based cell culture in a benchtop microfluidic bioreactor†
Microfluidic bioreactors are expected to impact cell therapy and biopharmaceutical production due to their ability to control cellular microenvironments. This work presents a novel approach for continuous cell culture in a microfluidic system. Microcarriers (i.e., microbeads) are used as growth support for anchorage-dependent mammalian cells. This approach eases the manipulation of cells within the system and enables harmless extraction of cells. Moreover, the microbioreactor uses a perfusion function based on the biocompatible integration of a porous membrane to continuously feed the cells. The perfusion rate is optimized through simulations to provide a stable biochemical environment. Thermal management is also addressed to ensure a homogeneous bioreactor temperature. Eventually, incubator-free cell cultures of Drosophila S2 and PC3 cells are achieved over the course of a week using this bioreactor. In future applications, a more efficient alternative to harvesting cells from microcarriers is also anticipated as suggested by our positive results from the microcarrier digestion experiments.