Massively parallel approach to stem cell culture will accelerate research

6 October 2014

UK stem cell pioneer Plasticell Limited has announced the publication of research on the company’s high throughput 'Combinatorial Cell Culture' (CombiCult) technology that allows a single scientist to carry out 10,000 stem cell biology experiments in parallel.

The research points to the potential of high throughput technologies to accelerate painfully slow biomedical research, which has hampered the development of new therapies ever since human embryonic stem cells were developed in 1998.

Plasticell’s technology allows the discovery of improved methods to create chosen human cell types from stem cells, a critical step in the discovery of regenerative medicines to treat conditions such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. The 10,000 individual experiments would previously have required around 200 years to complete back-to-back.

Chris Mason, Professor of Regenerative Medicine Bioprocessing at UCL, whose research group carried out external validation of the technology commented, "Discovery of robust methods to differentiate stem cells remains a serious bottleneck for the industry. This is a major reason why only two pluripotent stem cell therapies have progressed to clinical trials despite the spending of many hundreds of millions of dollars on pluripotent stem cell translation. The unique CombiCult technology can dramatically increase research productivity, significantly cutting costs whilst accelerating the development of innovative therapies for serious medical conditions."

Dr Yen Choo, Plasticell’s Executive Chairman and senior author of the scientific paper, added, "Optimising laboratory methods to obtain affordable, industrialised cell manufacturing protocols is absolutely key to the development of cell therapies. The paper describes a study in which we used combinatorial screening to obtain a 250-fold reduction in cell bioprocessing costs, through a 50-fold increase in cell yield accompanied by a five-fold reduction in reagent costs via the use of cell culture media comprising small molecule drugs.’

The paper also demonstrates use of CombiCult technology to produce large numbers of rare adult stem cells that maintain and repair various organs of the body such as the brain and heart.

"We believe progenitor cells are key to the discovery of new drugs that regenerate specific tissues of the human body in response to injury, disease or ageing," added David Phillips, Partner at SR One, the corporate venture arm of the pharmaceutical company GSK, which is backing Progenitor Therapeutics, a Plasticell spin-out company that uses CombiCult to develop drug-based regenerative medicines.


Tarunina M, et al. Directed differentiation of embryonic stem cells using a bead-based combinatorial screening method.


To top