Stirred-suspension bioreactors are a promising modality for large-scale culture of 3D aggregates of pluripotent stem cells and their progeny. Yet, cells within these clusters experience limitations in the transfer of factors and particularly O2 which is characterized by low solubility in aqueous media. Cultured stem cells under different O2 levels may exhibit significantly different proliferation, viability and differentiation potential. Here, a transient diffusion-reaction model was built encompassing the size distribution and ultrastructural characteristics of embryonic stem cell (ESC) aggregates. The model was coupled to experimental data from bioreactor and static cultures for extracting the effective diffusivity and kinetics of consumption of O2 within mouse (mESC) and human ESC (hESC) clusters. Under agitation, mESC aggregates exhibited a higher maximum consumption rate than hESC aggregates. Moreover, the reaction-diffusion model was integrated with a population balance equation (PBE) for the temporal distribution of ESC clusters changing due to aggregation and cell proliferation. Hypoxia was found to be negligible for ESCs with a smaller radius than 100 mm but became appreciable for aggregates larger than 300 μm. The integrated model not only captured the O2 profile both in the bioreactor bulk and inside ESC aggregates but also led to the calculation of the duration that fractions of cells experience a certain range of O2 concentrations. The approach described in this study can be employed for gaining a deeper understanding of the effects of O2 on the physiology of stem cells organized in 3D structures. Such frameworks can be extended to encompass the spatial and temporal availability of nutrients and differentiation factors and facilitate the design and control of relevant bioprocesses for the production of stem cell therapeutics. © 2014 Wu et al.
Wu, J., Rostami, M. R., Cadavid Olaya, D. P., & Tzanakakis, E. S. (2014). Oxygen transport and stem cell aggregation in stirred-suspension bioreactor cultures. PLoS ONE, 9(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0102486