Researchers at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Australia, have developed a 3D printed system for harvesting stem cells from bioreactors.\n\n\n\nThe scientists said this could lead to high quality, wide-scale production of stem cells in Australia at a lower cost.\n\n\n\nStem cells offer great promise in the treatment of many diseases and injuries, from arthritis and diabetes to cancer, due to their ability to replace damaged cells. However, current technology used to harvest stem cells is labor intensive, time consuming and expensive.\n\n\n\nUTS biomedical engineer Majid Warkiani led the translational research, in collaboration with industry partner Regeneus \u2013 an Australian biotech company developing stem cell therapies to treat inflammatory conditions and pain.\n\n\n\n\u201cOur cutting-edge technology, which uses 3D printing and microfluidics to integrate a number of production steps into one device can help make stem cell therapies more widely available to patients at a lower cost,\u201d Warkiani said.\n\n\n\n\u201cWhile this world-first system is currently at the prototype stage, we are working closely with biotechnology companies to commercialise the technology. Importantly, it is a closed system with no human intervention, which is necessary for current good manufacturing practices.\u201d\n\n\n\nMicrofluidics is the precise control of fluid at microscopic levels, which can be used to manipulate cells and particles. Advances in 3D printing have allowed for the direct construction of microfluidic equipment, and thus rapid prototyping and building of integrated systems.\n\n\n\nThe new system was developed to process mesenchymal stem cells, a type of adult stem cell that can divide and differentiate into multiple tissue cells including bone, cartilage, muscle, fat, and connective tissue.\n\n\n\nMesenchymal stem cells are initially extracted from human bone marrow, fat tissue or blood. They are then transferred to a bioreactor in the lab and combined with microcarriers to allow the cells to proliferate.\n\n\n\nNew system\n\n\n\nThe new system combines four micromixers, one spiral microfluidic separator and one microfluidic concentrator to detach and separate the mesenchymal stem cells from microcarriers and concentrate them for downstream processing.\n\n\n\nThe study \u2018A modular 3D printed microfluidic system: a potential solution for continuous cell harvesting in large\u2011scale bioprocessing\u2019 was recently published in the journal Bioresources and Bioprocessing.\n\n\n\nWarkiani said other bioprocessing industrial challenges can also be addressed using the same technology and workflow, helping to reduce costs and increase the quality of a range of life-saving products including stem cells and CAR-T cells.