Scalable culture and cryopreservation of human embryonic stem cells on microcarriers



As a result of their pluripotency and potential for unlimited self-renewal, human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) hold tremendous promise in regenerative medicine. An essential prerequisite for the widespread application of hESCs is the establishment of effective and efficient protocols for large-scale cell culture, storage, and distribution. At laboratory scales hESCs are cultured adherent to tissue culture plates; these culture techniques are labor-intensive and do not scale to high cell numbers. In an effort to facilitate larger scale hESC cultivation, we investigated the feasibility of culturing hESCs adherent to microcarriers. We modified the surface of Cytodex 3 microcarriers with either Matrigel or mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs). hESC colonies were effectively expanded in a pluripotent, undifferentiated state on both Matrigel-coated microcarriers and microcarriers seeded with a MEF monolayer. While the hESC expansion rate on MEF-microcarriers was less than that on MEF-plates, the doubling time of hESCs on Matrigel-microcarriers was indistinguishable from that of hESCs expanded on Matrigel-coated tissue culture plates. Standard hESC cryopreservation methodologies are plagued by poor viability and high differentiation rates upon thawing. Here, we demonstrate that cryopreservation of hESCs adherent to microcarriers in cryovials provides a higher recovery of undifferentiated cells than cryopreservation of cells in suspension. Together, these results suggest that microcarrier-based stabilization and culture may facilitate hESC expansion and storage for research and therapeutic applications. © 2009 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 2009