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Biotechnol Bioeng. 2012 Feb;109(2):472-82. doi: 10.1002/bit.23321. Epub 2011 Sep 9.

A population balance equation model of aggregation dynamics in Taxus suspension cell cultures.

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  • 1Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts 01003, USA.


The nature of plant cells to grow as multicellular aggregates in suspension culture has profound effects on bioprocess performance. Recent advances in the measurement of plant cell aggregate size allow for routine process monitoring of this property. We have exploited this capability to develop a conceptual model to describe changes in the aggregate size distribution that are observed over the course of a Taxus cell suspension batch culture. We utilized the population balance equation framework to describe plant cell aggregates as a particulate system, accounting for the relevant phenomenological processes underlying aggregation, such as growth and breakage. We compared model predictions to experimental data to select appropriate kernel functions, and found that larger aggregates had a higher breakage rate, biomass was partitioned asymmetrically following a breakage event, and aggregates grew exponentially. Our model was then validated against several datasets with different initial aggregate size distributions and was able to quantitatively predict changes in total biomass and mean aggregate size, as well as actual size distributions. We proposed a breakage mechanism where a fraction of biomass was lost upon each breakage event, and demonstrated that even though smaller aggregates have been shown to produce more paclitaxel, an optimum breakage rate was predicted for maximum paclitaxel accumulation. We believe this is the first model to use a segregated, corpuscular approach to describe changes in the size distribution of plant cell aggregates, and represents an important first step in the design of rational strategies to control aggregation and optimize process performance.

Copyright © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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