“The devil is in the details” when it comes to applying cell culture to drug discovery and development, says Faye Boeckman, director of market development for cell culture essentials at Life Technologies in Frederick, Md.
Beyond the need to track lots of details, companies also want scalability. “Lots of customers are looking for solutions at a research scale that they can move into production and meet regulatory requirements,” says Richard Del Mastro, director of R&D and product development at Life Technologies. “For example, a custom medium called F-17, which can be used with CHO [Chinese hamster ovary] and HEK [human embryonic kidney] 293 cells was developed based on customer needs. This product has been tested by our customers to the point where they seek the product to be GMP validated and enabling us to now place it in our catalog. This way we get to create novel research development tools, for specific customer use, and then pass this onto our general customers for their use with a high degree of validation.”
New cell-culture media also help companies move from research to production. “We deliver the type of medium that enables customers to move forward with a titer and scalability allowing them to get to the bioproduction level in as short of time as possible,” says Mark Stramaglia, associate director in bioproduction at Life Technologies. The company introduced CD FortiCHO Medium, which can accelerate development and provide longer culture duration with certain varieties of production CHO cells. “Customers have told us they are pleased with results they are getting in variants of CHO-S, GS CHO, and CHO K1 cell processes,” he says.
Life Technologies has also released GMP-banked versions of DG44 and CHO-S cells to support customers in their cell line-development efforts and also offers a complete stable cell line development kit based on DG44 cells called the OptiCHO Protein Express Kit.
When it comes to embryonic stem cell culture, Del Mastro says, “We have a qualified serum that will let you work with mouse cells and use medium DMEM F12—all without worrying about components that might be in the serum and cause the cells to differentiate.”
So with a variety of tools, researchers can get more from cell culture for pharmaceutical research.
More realistic growth
“The key to better cell culture is enabling cells to grow, differentiate, and function in a manner more realistic to their native counterparts, behaving more in vivo-like,” says Stefan Przyborski, PhD, director and chief scientific officer at reinnervate in Sedgefield, U.K.. “Growing cells in two dimensions changes their shapes, which influences gene and protein expression profiles, and that influences function.” He adds, “If a researcher is testing a drug on a cell that has been changed, then the results might be inaccurate.” So Przyborski developed Alvetex, which is a proprietary polystyrene scaffold.
Cells in culture grow on this scaffold in three dimensions. It comes as a 200 micrometer–thick disc in plates consisting of various well configurations. As Przyborski points out, “The material is the same as what is currently used in 2D culture. Scientists don’t have to worry about how cells will respond to the material. Only its geometry has changed.” He adds, “Alvetex is highly compatible with existing methods of analysis.”
The scaffold can be placed at the bottom of a well or inserted in the middle. “It’s not just the scaffold,” Przyborski says, “but how you use it. With our product, we can get multiple layers of cells.” That is realistic three-dimensional cell culture.
About the Author
Mike May is a publishing consultant for science and technology based in Houston, Texas.