• embryonic stem cells;
  • suspension bioreactor;
  • microcarriers;
  • serum-free cultivation


Large numbers of cells will be required for successful embryonic stem cell (ESC)-based cellular therapies or drug discovery, thus raising the need to develop scaled-up bioprocesses for production of ESCs and their derived progeny. Traditionally, ESCs have been propagated in adherent cultures in static flasks on fibroblasts layers in serum-containing medium. Direct translation of two-dimensional flatbed cultures to large-scale production of the quantities of cells required for therapy simply by increasing the number of dishes or flasks is not practical or economical. Here, we describe successful scaled-up production of ESCs on microcarriers in a stirred culture system in a serum-free medium. Cells expanded on CultiSpher S, Cytodex 3, and Collagen microcarriers showed superior cell-fold expansions of 439, 193, and 68, respectively, without excessive agglomeration, compared with 27 in static culture. In addition, the ESCs maintained their pluripotency after long-term culture (28 days) in serum-free medium. This is the first time mESCs have been cultured on microcarriers without prior exposure to serum and/or fibroblasts, while also eliminating the excessive agglomeration plaguing earlier studies. These protocols provide an economical, practical, serum-free means for expanding ESCs in a stirred suspension bioprocess. © 2011 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 2011