Cellular Biotechnology

Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering

Microfluidic systems and suitable surface architectures, developed in the Department of Cellular Biotechnology and Biochips, allow the gentle handling of cells and a tight control of their behaviour – preconditions for utilising cells in biomedicine and biotechnology.
© Fraunhofer IBMT.

Innovative medical and diagnostic methods, the synthesis of biomolecules or the search for active pharmaceutical compounds cannot do without the competent and reliable processing and characterization of highly complex biological samples. The utility of living single cells, mixtures of cells or cell lysates for the different applications is particularly determined by their vitality und functionality. This requires high standards for the compatibility of technical systems with the demands of the biological samples. In this context and based on concepts of microsystem-, surface- and nanobiotechnology as well as biotechnological and molecular biological processes the department Cellular Biotechnology pursues different approaches: for the careful handling, the precise control and analysis of living cells lab-on-chip systems are developed. The clever combination of controllable polymer surfaces, dielectrophoretic elements and fluidic microchannels allows for the carrying out of important tasks within the chips: representative examples are the positioning of cells and cell clusters with micrometer accuracy for microscopy, the sorting of heterogeneous cell populations, the activation and differentiation of cells by means of surface-mediated and chemotactic stimuli as well as the gentle and enzyme-free detachment of cells from the cultivation substrate.

The expertise developed is applied in a second approach to exploit the potential of cell-free protein synthesis for industrial use. This production process, which has recently been established at our location, uses processed cell lysates, thus avoiding many obstacles of the in vivo production of biomolecules within organisms. Through the optimization of the biological processes within defined microfluidic reaction environments we expect substantial improvements in terms of quality and output of this process. At the same time this approach creates the basis for the production of important protein classes, e. g. membrane proteins, such as ion channels or cytotoxic proteins, which so far cannot be produced in sufficient amounts neither using in vivo nor in vitro methods.

Finally the Extremophile Research & Biobank CCCYRO group studies cold-adapted snow algae with a focus on their potential use as systems for producing high-quality substances like e. g. antioxidants (carotinoids and vitamins), ice structuring proteins (ISP) or fatty acids. Concomitantly, product-optimized photo-bioreactors are developed, the algal collection CCCryo serving as a unique bio-resource used by prospective buyers both from the academic and the private sector.