New way to mass-produce stem cells is safer, cheaper

A new method for culturing human stem cells could lead to quicker and cheaper large-scale production, researchers say.

Current methods for culturing cells are expensive and rely on substances that are not safe for clinical use in humans. The new method relies a protein derived from human blood to grow the cells.

The technique, which can deliver the billions of cells needed to treat individual patients, could be key to realizing the full potential of stem cells in medicine.

“The protein can make stem cells attach on unmodified tissue culture plastic, and improve survival of the stem cells in harsh conditions,” says Sara Pijuan-Galitó, a research fellow at the University of Nottingham, who first worked on the project at Uppsala University.

“It is the first stem cell culture method that does not require a pre-treated biological substrate for attachment, and therefore, is more cost and time-efficient and paves the way for easier and cheaper large-scale production,” adds Pijuan-Galitó, first author of the study published in Nature Communications.

Lead supervisor Cecilia Annerén, who has a joint position at Uppsala University and at GE Healthcare in Sweden, says: “As coating is a time-consuming step and adds cost to human stem cell culture, this new method has the potential to save time and money in large-scale and high-throughput cultures, and be highly valuable for both basic research and commercial applications.”

The technology described in the paper is undergoing patent protection by GE Healthcare, which co-funded the project at Uppsala University.

Source: University of Nottingham

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