The consistent and optimized production of living human cells for drug discovery and regenerative medicine faces many challenges including the need for cost effective large scale expansion, improved representation of in vivo cellular physiology, and the ability to achieve reproducible data and/or cellular products. In order to achieve these goals there has been an evolution in the methods used to culture cells involving the use of 3D approaches that include the growth of cells in and on biomimetic substrates, optimization of cell culture media, and exposing cells to shear forces and oxygen tension that more closely mimics the in vivo environment. In addition, in order to make these new 3D processes more cost effective there is an increasing interest to fully automate the cell culture process. However, many new in vitro 3D cell culture methods, which provide improved physiologically and biologically relevant cellular phenotypes neither lend themselves to automation nor allow the process to be scaled for large cell biomass production. We have designed and are building a fully automated 3D cell culture robotic system that allows for parallel or random access processing of many cell lines each sourced from unique individuals. This next generation cell culture robot will allow cell based assays on biologically diverse populations of cells in order to test lead compounds for their biodiverse effects (varying effective doses and toxicology).
This presentation will discuss the current 3D cell culture systems and their suitability for automation. Data will be shown demonstrating the benefits of each automated 3D cell culture process in terms of cell morphology and function. Each system will be evaluated for its cost/benefit in terms of biological relevance, yield, and quality metrics. Modern 3D cell culture techniques will be objectively discussed in the context of creating improved standards for primary/stem cell production and screening.