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Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2001 Jul;281(1):F12-25.

Optimized suspension culture: the rotating-wall vessel.

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Nephrology Section, Tulane University Medical Center, Louisiana Veterans Research Corporation, and Veterans Affairs Medical Center, New Orleans 70112, USA.
Tulane U, New Orleans, LA


Suspension culture remains a popular modality, which manipulates mechanical culture conditions to maintain the specialized features of cultured cells. The rotating-wall vessel is a suspension culture vessel optimized to produce laminar flow and minimize the mechanical stresses on cell aggregates in culture. This review summarizes the engineering principles, which allow optimal suspension culture conditions to be established, and the boundary conditions, which limit this process. We suggest that to minimize mechanical damage and optimize differentiation of cultured cells, suspension culture should be performed in a solid-body rotation Couette-flow, zero-headspace culture vessel such as the rotating-wall vessel. This provides fluid dynamic operating principles characterized by 1) solid body rotation about a horizontal axis, characterized by colocalization of cells and aggregates of different sedimentation rates, optimally reduced fluid shear and turbulence, and three-dimensional spatial freedom; and 2) oxygenation by diffusion. Optimization of suspension culture is achieved by applying three tradeoffs. First, terminal velocity should be minimized by choosing microcarrier beads and culture media as close in density as possible. Next, rotation in the rotating-wall vessel induces both Coriolis and centrifugal forces, directly dependent on terminal velocity and minimized as terminal velocity is minimized. Last, mass transport of nutrients to a cell in suspension culture depends on both terminal velocity and diffusion of nutrients. In the transduction of mechanical culture conditions into cellular effects, several lines of evidence support a role for multiple molecular mechanisms. These include effects of shear stress, changes in cell cycle and cell death pathways, and upstream regulation of secondary messengers such as protein kinase C. The discipline of suspension culture needs a systematic analysis of the relationship between mechanical culture conditions and biological effects, emphasizing cellular processes important for the industrial production of biological pharmaceuticals and devices.

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