Is a Perfusion Cell Culture System Right for Your Lab? | Adherent Cell Cultures | Corning

The perfusion cell culture process mimics the natural flow of fluid of in vivo conditions: Fresh media goes in; spent media and byproducts come out. Unlike static modalities, such as roller bottles and stacked vessels, perfusion cell cultures help researchers achieve adherent cultures at scale with minimal space and variability — and, ultimately, less labor.

These advantages help researchers meet the increasing bioprocessing demand from the cell and gene therapy space, especially as labs search for cost-effective opportunities to scale research between preclinical trials and late-stage trials.

But how do you know when to make the switch to a perfusion setup like the Corning® CellCube® System? We asked Ann Rossi Bilodeau, Ph.D., a Senior Bioprocess Applications Scientist at Corning, and Jacqueline Dokko, an Assistant Bioprocess Product Line Manager, what scientists need to know.

What are the most popular perfusion applications for adherent cell cultures?

Bilodeau: Perfusion systems have a broad set of applications for which they're ideal. But, generally, you can use perfusion in any application where you'd need to grow a lot of cells: cell therapy, vaccines for animals and humans, viral vectors — the list goes on.

Dokko: And, specific to CellCube, it is a very cost-efficient platform with a high cell growth surface area-to-footprint ratio, which makes it particularly attractive to the highly cost-sensitive vaccine market. We're also seeing some interest in it for COVID-19 vaccines.

What makes a perfusion system better than static modalities for adherent cultures?

Bilodeau: Well, a lot of vaccines are made in roller bottles because it's very cheap. But it's quite a labor-intensive because each bottle is processed individually, and it also takes up a significant amount of space. For example, a CellCube 100 is the equivalent of 100 roller bottles, which require racks and warm rooms. Many customers do not have the facilities or personnel to accommodate roller bottles at a large scale unless already working with the platform. At some point, your scale expands such that it becomes impractical to use other options.

Dokko: Adding to that, perfusion systems like CellCube can save space because the surface area is compact. Because cells attach to both sides of every plate, you get a very dense growing environment throughout the cube. The perfusion system is also beneficial for the cells themselves because they are getting a constant flow of well-conditioned media from the bioreactor.

Will I need to use a bioreactor with my perfusion setup?

Bilodeau: Yes, but not for the reasons many people may think. Though bioreactors are traditionally used for suspension cultures, adherence platforms like CellCube require bioreactors and controllers as well, but not to stir and suspend cells. Instead, perfusion adherent cultures utilize bioreactors and controllers for medium conditioning — including pH and dissolved oxygen control to fine-tune the culture for optimal growth.

Which bioreactors and controllers should I use?

Bilodeau: If you're using CellCube, it has the flexibility to interface with virtually any bioreactor, from single-use bioreactors to glass bioreactors that require sterilization between runs. It just depends on your preference for bioreactor and controller system and what investment you want to make, as well as the footprint of the area where you're placing your system.

Can I use a closed system with a perfusion setup?

Dokko: Yes, and we're seeing that a lot, especially in the United States. More researchers are starting to move toward closed systems because they're easier to standardize and keep sterile, and because they minimize contamination. These systems are ideal for CellCube because the connections between the bioreactor and the cube are a lot easier to manage and you don't have to weld them together individually.

What else should researchers consider before moving to a high-output perfusion system?

Bilodeau: You should have a good handle on your cells' growth requirements and what you ultimately want from the cells. Because everything is controlled through the controller and bioreactor, you'll want to make sure that you establish the right parameters for oxygen, pH, and other variables at the outset. This does take a little work, and some troubleshooting. However, once you get the parameters tweaked, the system produces beautifully.

Learn more about optimizing cell growth for adherent cultures.