• embryonic stem cells;
  • embryoid bodies;
  • cardiomyocytes;
  • bioreactor agitation;
  • process control;
  • scale-up


It is well established that embryonic stem (ES) cells can differentiate into functional cardiomyocytes in vitro. ES-derived cardiomyocytes could be used for pharmaceutical and therapeutic applications, provided that they can be generated in sufficient quantity and with sufficient purity. To enable large-scale culture of ES-derived cells, we have developed a robust and scalable bioprocess that allows direct embryoid body (EB) formation in a fully controlled, stirred 2 L bioreactor following inoculation with a single cell suspension of mouse ES cells. Utilizing a pitched-blade-turbine, parameters for optimal cell expansion as well as efficient ES cell differentiation were established. Optimization of stirring conditions resulted in the generation of high-density suspension cultures containing 12.5 × 106 cells/mL after 9 days of differentiation. Approximately 30%–40% of the EBs formed in this process vigorously contracted, indicating robust cardiomyogenic induction. An ES cell clone carrying a recombinant DNA molecule comprised of the cardiomyocyte-restricted alpha myosin heavy chain (αMHC) promoter and a neomycin resistance gene was used to establish the utility of this bioprocess to efficiently generate ES-derived cardiomyocytes. The genetically engineered ES cells were cultured directly in the stirred bioreactor for 9 days, followed by antibiotic treatment for another 9 days. The protocol resulted in the generation of essentially pure cardiomyocyte cultures, with a total yield of 1.28 × 109 cells in a single 2 L bioreactor run. This study thus provides an important step towards the large-scale generation of ES-derived cells for therapeutic and industrial applications. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.