The potential of cell-based therapies has been well established and there is a good number of companies and organisations providing primary cells and pluripotent stem cells.
The users of these cells are in hospitals around the country or in a different country. The logistics of these chains can be very complicated. Some cell types one must not freeze, for others, the protocols and requirements for transport are quite complex and expensive.
A UK university spinout has developed a method of encapsulating human cells in an alginate gel that makes them practical to use, adaptable and easy to store and transport. Excellent viability is maintained even at near-room temperature.
A range of modifications to the method have been tested for a variety of cell types. The cells consistently prove to preserve their quality for therapeutic or assay purposes. This overcomes the barriers presented by the current need for cryo-shipping.
This will help open up the market for the supply of cells, tissues and assays in a ready-to-use format, allowing suppliers to increase the range of assays available to consumers and to scale up their businesses.
Encapsulating cells in the alginate hydrogel is a simple process, capable of preserving the viability and functionality of cells at temperatures between 4 and 21°C for extended periods of time, up to 2 weeks. Cells are encapsulated by in situ formation of the gel for shipping in plates, beads or vials, and can be rapidly released from the gel by the addition of a simple buffer.
The UK company is seeking partnerships with companies network-wide who either:
• sell high value cell assays and cells for R&D purposes (in drug discovery and testing, for example);
• Biologistics providers who need cGMP (Current Good Manufacturing Practice) compliant transport protocols;
• Developers of new cell therapy products.
The co-operation will start with a brief technical project to choose or optimise the exact protocols by fine tuning the hydrogel. The UK company will then remain to supply the reagents on a needs basis under a commercial agreement with technical assistance.