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home > ebr > spring 2021 > defining cell culture conditions to drive cell identity and scalability in cell therapy
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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Defining Cell Culture Conditions to Drive Cell Identity and Scalability in Cell Therapy

Cell therapy is a powerful strategy to treat and cure diseases that have been untreatable to date. For many diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and liver failure, cell replacement remains the only option for curative therapy. Pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) represent a valuable resource for the generation of cell types for treating these diseases. Protocols have been developed and refined, allowing the differentiation of human embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to numerous cell types in vitro. These include cardiomyocytes, pancreatic beta cells, and hepatocytes, which have therapeutic potential to treat heart disease, diabetes, and liver failure. Many studies have shown that PSC-derived cardiomyocytes, pancreatic beta cells, and hepatocytes can be transplanted in animal models, and are capable of engrafting and providing a functional benefit.

However, the development of cell therapies is tightly linked to our ability to culture cells in artificial environments outside of the body, i.e., in vitro conditions. In our bodies, cells live in highly regulated and specialised microenvironments, also known as niches. These niches provide adequate conditions for cells to perform their function, maintain their cellular identity and, whenever required, divide and respond to their surroundings. In these in vivo conditions, there is also an active and dynamic communication to nearby cells. This communication acts via the exchange of specific signalling molecules, or in some cases via physical, mechanical, or even electrical stimulations, such as in the heart. Unfortunately, cells lose their characteristics whenever they are taken out of their natural in vivo conditions or when they are grown in vitro.

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Dr Aida Moreno-Moral is Director of Cell Informatics at Mogrify. Aida completed her PhD in Cardiovascular System Genetics at Imperial College London, UK. In her PhD she carried out high-throughput omics data integration across species to uncover novel targets for cardiovascular disease. This work led to a National Medical Research Council grant at Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore, where Aida worked in the discovery and development of therapeutic targets for fibrotic, autoimmune diseases, and cell therapies.

Dr David Anderson is Principal Scientist at Mogrify. David completed his PhD training in Pluripotent Stem Cell Biology at the University of Nottingham, UK. During his PhD and post-doctoral training, David worked to define the differentiation of PSCs to cardiovascular lineages for disease modelling and drug toxicology screening purposes. David has also held a number of scientific roles at healthcare and biotech companies, including GE Healthcare, Horizon Discovery, and Empyrean Therapeutics, and has developed expertise in gene editing of primary cells and PSCs.
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