Researchers have demonstrated an integrated technique for monitoring specific biomolecules -- such as growth factors -- that could indicate the health of living cell cultures produced for the burgeoning field of cell-based therapeutics. Using microfluidic technology to advance the preparation of samples from the chemically complex bioreactor environment, the researchers have harnessed electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) to provide online monitoring that they believe will provide therapeutic cell production with the kind of precision quality control that has revolutionized other manufacturing processes. By measuring very low concentrations of specific compounds secreted or excreted by cells, the technique could also help identify which biomolecules of widely varying sizes should be monitored to guide the control of cell health. Ultimately, the researchers hope to integrate their label-free monitoring directly into high-volume bioreactors that will produce cells in quantities large enough to make the new therapies available at a reasonable cost and consistent quality.
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