Human stem cells are considered as new hope in the medical field. In the future, they are expected to be used to treat a wide range of diseases, such as neurodegenerative diseases. Researchers from Fraunhofer have developed a system called LabBag. a transparent bag that provides scientists with a cheap, fast, sterile way to grow, identify, and freeze stem cells. The resulting cell model can be used for independent testing and drug development. After successfully testing the system, researchers will present a prototype at the MEDICA trade fair in Dusseldorf, Germany, from November 13th to 16th.
Scientists around the world are looking for ways to treat diseases through stem cells. These cells offer the potential to develop new treatments and drugs. Stem cell materials allow us to conduct disease research in an unprecedented way. In addition, the latest research shows that 3D cell models can more accurately reflect the condition of the human body. These cell aggregates are produced primarily in a droplet-like nutrient solution under sterile conditions. In the future, we need to do this process cheaply and reliably.
As part of the LabBag project, the Fraunhofer Institute of Biomedical Engineering, the Fraunhofer Institute for Surface Engineering and Thin Films, and the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV brought together their expertise to develop a miniature laboratory in plastic bags. In this bag, human-induced pluripotent stem cells can grow in a sterile environment and form 3D aggregates. These cells can be used in the pharmaceutical industry for patient or disease-specific drug development, as well as testing systems for the study of active ingredients.
To date, stem cell aggregation can be produced by using pipetting robotic systems or manual pipetting, the former requiring expensive purchase and maintenance costs, the latter being a labor-intensive and time-intensive model, with considerable human effort. Manual pipetting in a Petri dish requires a lot of practice and is also at risk of contamination. Developed by Fraunhofer researchers, "The Lab in a Bag" is designed to reduce labor and material costs while significantly increasing cell yield and process reliability. Labbag exercises are very simple Just shake the transparent bag, only a few seconds can produce hundreds of drops of suspended nutrient solution, almost automatic. First, pour the nutrient solution containing the stem cells into the bag. The bag is rotated once and returned to its original position. In the process, the droplets are still suspended around the hydrophilic point. These droplets act as micro-bioreactors in which the desired 3D cell aggregates can form. These cells sink to the bottom of the droplet and they bind together and fuse into a fixed three-dimensional polymer.
Dr. Michael Thomas, project manager scientist at Fraunhofer, explains: "We coated two different coatings on the polymer film." The first layer is hydrophobic and the hydrophobic substrate ensures that the nutrient solution containing the protein flows on the surface without adhering to it. The second layer consists of 150 hydrophilic circular spots, each 5 mm in diameter. Nutrients will be captured by these spots, resulting in droplets.
The volume of each drop is about 20 microliters and the 3D cell model is about 400 micrometers in size. Aggregate size can be adjusted by changing the diameter of the spots on the surface of the bag. Currently, Dr. Neubauer and her team need about 72 hours to produce polymer droplets. "We described LabBag as a miniature GMP laboratory that meets all the requirements and a closed, sterile system that minimizes the risk of contamination." Dr. Neubauer emphasizes, "Ultimately, we can produce better Cell model to avoid experimenting with animals. "
One of the advantages of LabBag? Is that the cell model can even freeze directly in the bag. Unlike manual pipetting, it is no longer necessary to transfer the material to a separate cryogenic container. How to optimize cryogenic storage - that is, freezing cells - relies on the duties of Fraunhofer IBMT. In addition, the institute is responsible for cultivating stem cells and characterizing and analyzing 3D aggregates. "We are concerned with the production of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), because these stem cells are likely to develop into any cell in the body and possibly into any tissue or a particular type of tissue. Unlike embryonic stem cells, they do not trigger Any ethical controversy, "said biologist Julia Neubaue of Fraunhofer IBMT. Stem cells become specific shapes and functions to accomplish certain tasks, which make it possible to develop patient-specific drugs. Dr. Neubauer and her colleagues are focusing on cardiomyocyte differentiation and have succeeded in differentiating iPS cells into this type of cell.
The miniature GMP laboratory created by the prototype of this disposable plastic bag offers the pharmaceutical industry an opportunity, at the same time, it also offers a technology that is suitable for small laboratories and does not require a clean room. Even without high investment costs, this technology can still provide high-quality cell models for drug research.