Differentiation and lineage selection of mouse embryonic stem cells in a stirred bench scale bioreactor with automated process control

Magnus Schroeder, Sylvia Niebruegge, Andreas Werner, Elmar Willbold, Monika Burg, Manfred Ruediger, Loren J. Field, Juergen Lehmann, Robert Zweigerdt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

131 Scopus citations


It is well established that embryonic stem (ES) cells can differentiate into functional cardiomyocytes in vitro. ES-derived cardiomyocytes could be used for pharmaceutical and therapeutic applications, provided that they can be generated in sufficient quantity and with sufficient purity. To enable large-scale culture of ES-derived cells, we have developed a robust and scalable bioprocess that allows direct embryoid body (EB) formation in a fully controlled, stirred 2 L bioreactor following inoculation with a single cell suspension of mouse ES cells. Utilizing a pitched-blade-turbine, parameters for optimal cell expansion as well as efficient ES cell differentiation were established. Optimization of stirring conditions resulted in the generation of high-density suspension cultures containing 12.5 × 106 cells/mL after 9 days of differentiation. Approximately 30%-40% of the EBs formed in this process vigorously contracted, indicating robust cardiomyogenic induction. An ES cell clone carrying a recombinant DNA molecule comprised of the cardiomyocyte-restricted alpha myosin heavy chain (αMHC) promoter and a neomycin resistance gene was used to establish the utility of this bioprocess to efficiently generate ES-derived cardiomyocytes. The genetically engineered ES cells were cultured directly in the stirred bioreactor for 9 days, followed by antibiotic treatment for another 9 days. The protocol resulted in the generation of essentially pure cardiomyocyte cultures, with a total yield of 1.28 × 109 cells in a single 2 L bioreactor run. This study thus provides an important step towards the large-scale generation of ES-derived cells for therapeutic and industrial applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)920-933
Number of pages14
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number7
StatePublished - Dec 30 2005


  • Bioreactor agitation
  • Cardiomyocytes
  • Embryoid bodies
  • Embryonic stem cells
  • Process control
  • Scale-up

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Microbiology

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