Microcarrier System

University of East Anglia Background
Microcarriers (beads) are a type of cell-supporting matrix that allow the growth of adherent cells in bioreactors. The market for microcarriers has risen sharply in the past few years due to the rising demand for cell-based therapeutics, with an estimated CAGR of over 6% in the next five years.
One of the current obstacles for using microcarriers in large-scale production is the need for dissociation of the cultured cells from the beads during the harvesting process. Currently, harsh chemical and physical treatments have to be applied to dissociate the cultured cells from the microcarriers, which may impact on the quality and safety of the cell based therapeutics grow and there is no option available for immediate transfer of the grown cells into patients for therapeutics purposes.
Technology Overview
Dissolvable micro-carriers, such as polysaccharide-based or extracellular matrix-based micro-carriers, have been developed in recent years to get around the need for chemical and physical treatments to dissociate the grown cells from the micro carriers.
Researchers from the School of Pharmacy at UEA have now developed a type of biodegradable micro particles based on poly lactic-co-glycolic acid polymer (PLGA), which is FDA approved. The PLGA has been pre-functionalised with a chemical modification and as a result the micro particles demonstrate intrinsic enhanced cell adhesion properties (demonstrated with Adipose- Derived Stem cells) and do not require any additional surface coatings to be able to bind to and grow the cells ().
Additionally, the micro particles have the same general stability profile under Room temperature conditions as un-modified PLGA. On exposure to aqueous solution (e.g. PBS) the UEA micro particles bio-degrade over time, lending to use of the UEA micro particles as micro-carriers to grow the desired cells and then use the micro-carrier bound with the cells to transplant to candidates for therapeutic purposes.
The team believes such a neat micro particle based micro carrier system with enhanced cell binding and biodegradability profile will find suitable applications as a tool for cell expansion, therapeutic cell delivery, and biodegradable biomaterial for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine uses.

Further Details:
Prefunctionalised PLGA microparticles with dimethylaminoethyl moieties promote surface cell adhesion at physiological condition, European Polymer Journal, 5 June 2021, Vol 152 110466, Falcon N. D., Saeed A.

Cell adhesion without the need for surface coating – micro particles suitable for cell expansion
Cell release without the need for interim treatments (chemical or physical) – micro particles suitable as delivery vehicles for the grown cells.
Enhanced degradation profile of the micro particles in aqueous environment – micro-carriers suitable for cell transplant.
Low cytotoxicity (FDA approved PLGA material)
Uniform micro-carrier beads manufactured using membrane emulsion technique.
Comparable degradation profile of micro-particles to unmodified PLGA at Room Temperature – indication of good shelf life and ideal for productisation.

Cell culture, pharmaceuticals.
UEA is now looking for potential licensees, co-development and R&D partners to bring the product to market.

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