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Perfusion Bioreactor System for Growing 3D Cell Cultures

Technology #17094

Enables Long-term Growth, Comprehensive Observation and Imaging of Live Biological Tissues In Situ

This multi-well device allows for continuous 3D cell culture with optical access to cells in a bioreactor system, using existing cell culture infrastructure to grow and assess cell viability non-invasively. Cancer and chronic diseases lead in worldwide causes of death and disability and will account for almost three-quarters of all deaths by 2020. Due to the growing demand for research and development on the pharmaceutical treatments necessary to treat chronic diseases and develop personalized therapeutics, the global market for bioreactor projects could reach $1.4 billion by 2021. During drug development research, three-dimensional (3D) growth media provides more accurate representations of cell profiles than two-dimensional (2D) cultures. However, cell viability in 3D culture is generally limited due to cytotoxic waste accumulation and nutrient depletion, killing the cells after only a few days. Available 3D cell culture techniques extend this timespan but often rely on polymer matrices which limit cell migration, alter cellular environments, and extend the culture time to only about a week longer.

Researchers at the University of Florida have developed a bioreactor system that can involve a single- or multi-well platform for continuous 3D culture of biological samples. A specialized jammed microgel liquid-like solid allows perfusion flow of 3D media without restricting the cellular environment or cell migration. Some designs of the bioreactor include optical pathways for direct observation with standard microscopes, allowing for high-resolution imaging of cells and their environment throughout the culture process.


Multi-well perfusion flow bioreactor device that provides continuous 3D cell culture and observation of cells with the ability to use existing cell culture infrastructure to attain cell viability


  • Allows continuous 3D cell culture (greater than 30 days), minimizing cell culture media requirements
  • Contains a jammed microgel liquid-like solid, allowing cellular migration and a more flexible cellular environment
  • Uses existing cell culture infrastructure, eliminating large-scale retooling of cell culture laboratories
  • Useable immediately after inserting cells, encouraging a time-effective experimental setup
  • Functions as part of perfusion bioreactor system, lengthening the lifespan of cells observed
  • Uses any suitable liquid cell growth medium, making the device versatile depending on the type of cells to be observed
  • Achieves pulsatile flow easily
  • Provides 3D optical access to cells in real-time, promoting long-term and thorough microscopic observation


This device introduces a specialized jammed microgel system, allowing for cellular migration and perfusion that is housed in a filtered vacuum system. A multi-well plate operates within the larger perfusion bioreactor system to keep cells in continuously filtered 3D growth medium while enabling cells to move freely in a more open environment. A filter within the device contains a nanoporous sheet membrane which allows media to flow through removing waste products from the bioreactor, keeping the cell structures in place within the wells. Additionally, the device contains optical pathways at the bottom of the wells that are constructed with materials compatible with cell culture, such as glass or polycarbonate, allowing for real-time observation of the biological samples.

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