Development of an optical system for on-line tracking of cell growth on microcarriers

Lead Research Organisation: University of Huddersfield
Department Name: Sch of Computing and Engineering


In order that people can live longer and lead more active lives there is a need to develop novel affordable and effective treatments for ill health. In some cases, cells that we have within our own bodies can be used to repair damaged tissues or organs. However, in adults, this repair mechanism is very limited and often inefficient so we may need to rely on cells from donors. Unfortunately, since it takes billions of cells to repair, for example the heart muscle of a heart-attack patient, we must isolate cells from donors and expand their numbers before they can be used for treatment. So far we can do this at the laboratory scale, generating for instance, millions of mesenchymal stem cells in a stirred tank over a period of 2 weeks. However, as we consider how this will be achieved on a bigger manufacturing scale, we need to develop tools that will help us monitor and control the process to ensure the cells grown in this way are the same every time - just as we would expect other medicines to be identical from batch to batch. This feasibility project aims to combine the expertise of both biologists and engineers, to create an optical device that can monitor the growth of these cells in this stirred tank environment by giving the operator information about cell number and morphology. If successful, it will help optimise growing conditions so enough cells to treat multiple patients can be manufactured consistently.


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Description The key achievements of this award have been in the development and demonstration of dedicated research apparatus in the form of a submersible interference microscope capable of imaging moving micro-carrier in-situ within an environment representing a stirred tank bioreactor. Image analysis routines to enable cell counting on populated micro-carriers were developed based upon a combination of: Hough circle detection and cropping, Laplacian of Gaussian filtering and thresholding. The method was validated using images obtained from the interferometry system on bone-marrow derived human mesenchymal stem cells grown on a range of micro-carrier types. Work towards dynamic imaging of moving microcarriers in-situ was also carried out using a high power pulsed laser source. At the time of writing an academic paper is under preparation to report the initial results. A further one is planned on results of dynamic imaging.
Exploitation Route The research outcomes for this feasibility study have been promising enough that the collaboration between The Centre for Biological Engineering, Loughborough and the Centre for Precision Technologies, University of Huddersfield is ongoing. The work related to the original funded project objectives is being continued through MSc project and spare post-graduate researcher capacity as the developed research apparatus is fully operational. It is fully anticipated that further results will lead to a strong case for more RCUK funded support in the future and the project team are actively pursuing this route at the time of writing.
At the time of submission a paper summarising the key findings is under the final stages of peer review with the journal, Biotechnology & Bioengineering.
Sectors Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology