laboratories, and can have far-reaching conse- quences. Cell culture processes are highly sensitive to contamination from bacteria, viruses, fungi and other biological contaminants. For cell therapy development, which demands the highest levels of sample purity, it is vital that contamination is min- imised. Given this importance, a wide range of innovative technologies have been developed to ensure that these strict levels are met. The latest biosafety cabinets (BSCs), for exam-

ple, offer very robust protection from contamina- tion. BSCs are enclosed, ventilated workspaces that serve to protect laboratory workers and the sur- rounding environment from pathogens by filtering workspace air to remove harmful bacteria and viruses. Improvements in BSC design mean that cabinet inflow and downflow air velocities can now be monitored in real-time and automatically balanced to ensure optimal conditions. Should out- of-spec conditions be reached, alarm signals alert the user to take remedial action. This is incredibly important for cell cultures as maintaining optimum purity is the key to successful, reproducible results. Maximising the reproducibility of results allows for more standardised processes, which streamlines the production of therapeutic products, and can accelerate the commercialisation of cell therapies. Once cultures are no longer actively manipulat-

ed in BSC workspaces, they are typically placed into incubation for cell expansion. But ensuring that cultures remain contaminant-free when incu- bated for long periods of time can be a challenge. An innovative approach, used by many researchers, involves securing cultures inside spe- cially-designed chambers or cell lockers to ensure maximum protection against cross-contamination. These chambers include membrane filters that per- mit air circulation, but exclude microbial contami- nants, minimising cross-contamination and allow- ing lots to be quarantined individually. As such, these storage solutions can be very useful in larger labs, and are especially useful for autologous cell therapy research where several different batches of cells may need to be incubated at the same time. Furthermore, another way that the cell therapy

industry is benefitting from the advancements made in modern equipment design is with innova-

tive CO2 incubators. A CO2 incubator is one of the most important pieces of technology for effective cell culture and subsequent cell therapy applica- tions as it mimics in vivo conditions and reduces experimental variability, as much as possible. The latest incubators now allow adjustments to be

made to O2 levels to simulate hypoxic environ- ments, and employ proven, on-demand high tem-


perature sterilisation cycles designed to eliminate microbial contaminants and simplify cleaning pro- cedures. On this latter point, modern incubators often now feature a polished stainless-steel interior with curved corners for easy cleaning or, alterna- tively, systems with surfaces made from pure, nat- ural copper, which are also very easy to clean. Moreover, copper surfaces provide a long service life, are safe for cultured cells and are recyclable, making for a sustainable choice. Available on a few state-of-the-art incubators,

high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters ensure airborne particulates are removed and cell cultures are protected. Filter technologies have advanced to such an extent that conditions can be restored to the highest levels of cleanliness within just five minutes following a 30-second incubator door opening. Additionally, features present in the most effective incubators, such as the ability to directly connect external water supplies, allows refilling without opening the chamber, minimising water- based contaminants. Modern, easy-to-use humidi- ty controls and water-level indicators ensure that sample desiccation does not occur. Minimising cell contamination in these ways can

help researchers achieve the highest levels of sam- ple integrity and maximise the reliability of results. These equipment innovations are also allowing researchers to reduce costs and save time by avoid- ing the need for repeat experiments. This improved efficiency is enabling more in-depth research to be performed, with far-reaching benefits for the entire cell therapy field.

Ensuring cell viability Maintaining cell viability is critical for cell therapy applications, but the complexities of manufactur- ing can make this a difficult task. The parameters that define cell viability in an experiment can be as diverse as the redox potential of the cell popula- tion, the integrity of cell membranes or the activity of cellular enzymes. However, recent innovations in equipment design are helping to overcome this multifaceted challenge and ensuring greater cell viability. Specially-designed cell viability indicators have

been developed that can provide a visual readout of cell health using a fluorescence microscope, microplate reader or flow cytometer. These can be incredibly useful tools for the cell therapy industry as they reduce the risk of experimental failure and increase the reliability of cell culturing techniques. Maintaining a homogenous environment is key

to the success of cell culture experiments, but a major challenge in the way of achieving consistent

Drug Discovery World Summer 2018

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