Design of a stirred multiwell bioreactor for expansion of CD34+ umbilical cord blood cells in hypoxic conditions



Besides having a metabolic role, oxygen is recognized as an important signaling stimulus for stem cells. In hematopoiesis, hypoxia seems to favor stem cell self-renewal. In fact, long-term repopulating hematopoietic stem cells reside in bone marrow at concentrations as low as 1% oxygen. However, O2 concentration is difficult to control in vitro. Thermodynamically, we found significant differences between O2 solubility in different media, and in presence of serum. Furthermore, we verified that medium equilibration with a hypoxic atmosphere requires several hours. Thus, in a static culture, the effective O2 concentration in the cell immediate microenvironment is difficult to control and subject to concentration gradients. Stirred systems improve homogeneity within the culture volume. In this work, we developed a stirred bioreactor to investigate hypoxia effect on the expression of stem cell markers in CD34+ cells from umbilical cord blood. The stirring system was designed on top of a standard six-well plate to favor continuity with conventional static conditions and transfer of culture protocols. The bioreactor volume (10 mL/well) is suitable for cell expansion and multiparametric flow cytometry analyses. First, it was tested at 21% O2 for biocompatibility and other possible effects on the cells compared to static conditions. Then, it was used to study c-kit expression of CD34+ cells at 5% O2, using 21%-O2 cultures as a control. In hypoxia we found that CD34+ cells maintained a higher expression of c-kit. Further investigation is needed to explore the dynamics of interaction between oxygen- and c-kit-dependent pathways at the molecular level. © 2011 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 2011