Cell medicine

A Rotating Bioreactor for Scalable Culture and Differentiation of Respiratory Epithelium.

PMID 26858899


Respiratory epithelium is difficult to grow in vitro, as it requires a well-maintained polarizing air-liquid interface (ALI) to maintain differentiation. Traditional methods rely on permeable membrane culture inserts, which are difficult to work with and are ill-suited for the production of large numbers of cells, such as the quantities required for cell-based clinical therapies. Herein, we investigate an alternative form of culture in which the cells are placed on a porous substrate that is continuously rolled, such that the monolayer of cells is alternately submerged in media or apically exposed to air. Our prototype bioreactor is reliable for up to 21 days of continuous culture and is designed for scale-up for large-scale cell culture with continuous medium and gas exchange. Normal human bronchial epithelial (NHBE) cells were cultured on an absorbent substrate in the reactor for periods of 7, 14, and 21 days and were compared to static controls that were submerged in media. Quantification by immunohistochemistry and quantitative PCR of markers specific to differentiated respiratory epithelium indicated increased cilia, mucous production, and tight junction formation in the rolled cultures, compared to static. Together with scanning electron microscopy and paraffin histology, the data indicate that the intermittent ALI provided by the rolling bioreactor promotes a polarized epithelial phenotype over a period of 21 days.