Stem Cell Production Could Be a Lot Cheaper Thanks to These Aussie Researchers

Stem Cell Production Could Be a Lot Cheaper Thanks to These Aussie Researchers
Image: Modular 3D printed microfluidic system. Image: Majid Warkiani et al. Bioresources and Bioprinting 2022

Researchers at UTS (University of Technology Sydney) have developed a new system for harvesting stem cells from bioreactors.

This new system, according to the UTS post, could offer the potential for high-quality, wide-scale production of stem cells in Australia at a lower cost.

Stem cells are used quite a bit in the medical field to increase our understanding of diseases, develop replacement cells for diseased ones, and test new drugs. Additionally, they’re used to treat things like arthritis, diabetes and cancer, due to their ability to replace damaged cells. They’re a big part of modern medicine.

At the moment, stem cell harvesting is labour intensive, time consuming and expensive, but this new method addresses this.

The new system from UTS uses adult mesenchymal stem cells. Adult stem cells, as opposed to those that come from embryos, are less versatile, however they can be reprogrammed to act like embryo cells.

Mesenchymal stem cells, specifically, can divide and differentiate into several kinds of tissue cells, including, bone, cartilage, muscle, fat and connective tissue. They’re extracted from bone marrow, tissue or blood and combined with microcarriers in a bioreactor in the lab to let the cells proliferate.

“The new system combines four micromixers, one spiral microfluidic separator and one microfluidic concentrator to detach and separate the mesenchymal stem cells from microcarriers and concentrate them for downstream processing,” the press release stated.


uts stem cell
Image: Majid Warkiani et al. Bioresources and Bioprinting 2022

“Our cutting-edge technology, which uses 3D printing and microfluidics to integrate a number of production steps into one device can help make stem cell therapies more widely available to patients at a lower cost,” said Professor Majid Warkiana, leader of the translational research in collaboration with industry partner Regeneus. (Regeneus is an Aussie biotech company that has been developing stem cell therapies for inflammatory conditions and pain.)

“While this world-first system is currently at the prototype stage, we are working closely with biotechnology companies to commercialise the technology. Importantly, it is a closed system with no human intervention, which is necessary for current good manufacturing practices.”

You can read about the study in the journal Bioresources and Bioprocessing.