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Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 1994 May;41(3):317-23.

Continuous insect cell (Sf-9) culture with aeration through sparging.

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  • 1Center for Agricultural Biotechnology, Maryland Biotechnology Institute, College Park.


The continuous growth of Spodoptera frugiperda Sf-9 cells in a 250-ml blown-glass jacketed spinner flask under a direct air sparging environment was investigated. Even at 220 ml working volume (about 90% of total volume), this spinner flask provided good mixing and oxygenation as demonstrated by a higher cell density compared with fermentor cultures. This eliminates a common limitation of the traditional spinner flask, namely much lower cell density at high working volume. Furthermore, this spinner flask has been run with Sf-9 cell culture at five different dilution rates and two different air sparging rates at steady state, demonstrating its utility in research applications where cell size, metabolic activity and environmental conditions can be constantly maintained. In addition to demonstrating the utility of the reactor, three novel points are made in this report. First, cell density in continuous cultures is increased significantly due to a high agitation rate and, especially, air sparging rate, which is seldom used in animal cell or insect cell culture. Second, there is no apparent difference in the specific death rate at two different sparging rates (0.0093 vvm and 0.0125 vvm). Finally, we have maintained Sf-9 cells for more than 4 months in a continuous culture using a serum-free medium without loss of recombinant protein expression in infected cells.

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