The Cryo & Stem Cell Technology Department is made up of four working groups – Pluripotency & Regeneration, Biomedical Optics, Automation Processesand Cryobiotechnology – whose joint objective is the standardization and automation of cell culture through the use of microfluidic/robotic platforms to develop fully and partially automated cell culture processes for the expansion, differentiation, cryopreservation and quality control of therapeutically relevant cell systems to ensure the permanent availability and consistent quality of the biological material.
Essentially, microfluidic cell culture technologies, robotic platforms as well as assorted bioreactor systems are attuned to the specific requirements of pluripotent stem cells, like human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs), and existing protocols are adapted accordingly. Furthermore, biopolymers (e. g. alginate) are evaluated and adapted in order to ensure better physiological conditions for stem cells and derived cells (e. g. cardiomyocytes) for the expansion and differentiation. In addition to this, innovative optical methods are being developed and integrated to investigate cell behaviour on the single cell level. Moreover, the advantages of automation, miniaturization and parallelization resulting from the use of microfluidic and robotic systems are also used to achieve rapid, cost-efficient and extremely consistent screening processes, like innovative optical methods and state-of-the-art molecular biology tools for the analysis at the single cell level.
These new systems, based, for example, on the "hanging drop" method, allow both complete control of the microenvironment and a substantially improved reproducibility of results. The establishment of highly parallelized and automated microsystems for the multi-parameter screening of active substances for each individual cell line is a milestone for the clinical application of future stem cell and other cell therapies. For the derivation and expansion of new cell lines, the setup of novel automation pipelines and the standardization of quality control screenings, the efficient storage of cell material is essential. This is why the Cryo & Stem Cell Technology Department is extending the unique competence of the Fraunhofer IBMT in the field of cryorepository and biobank technology with the development of cutting edge freezing methods and high-performance media for the cryopreservation of therapeutically relevant cell systems.