The functions of vital organs are often lost by illness or accident. Currently, transplantation is the only means of substitution, but patients face two major problems: a chronic shortage of donors and the risk of immun rejection. Now, mankind is acquiring a potential tool: induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) that can differentiate into various cells and tissues for organs. Regenerative medicine using iPS cells is expected to overcome such problems.
Researchers around the world have been studying ways of efficiently inducing the differentiation of human iPS cells and have identified two technologies that need to be established to realize regenerative medicine. One is technology for securing a sufficient volume of differentiated cells, and the other is for making these cells have the same functionality as that of cells and organs in a living body. Yokogawa is developing these two technologies.
Conventionally, the quality of cell production was visually checked by examiners. However, the results by this approach are less reliable because it is greatly affected by the examiner’s skill and abnormalities may easily be overlooked. To stabilize the quality of cell production, it is necessary to quantify the status of cells while in production and precisely control them. Yokogawa’s new technology does not need sampling, thus maintaining the number of cells and causing no damage.
Conventional visual observation depends largely on the examiner’s skills and experience. Yokogawa’s technology quantifies multiple parameters regarding the number and status of cells and identifies their changes over time, enabling cells to be controlled quantitatively while in production.
Yokogawa has confirmed the feasibility of this technology at an actual cell production site. This field test also showed that the technology can greatly reduce the costs for labor, training, development, and production. This added value will be of great benefit to customers.
Currently, cells are cultured in dishes, but such an environment is greatly different from that of a living body. This may explain why it is difficult to create highly functional cells and tissues in vitro.
To improve the functionality of differentiated cells and tissues, it is necessary to make the culture environment and the way of signaling as close as possible to those of a living body. Yokogawa is developing technology for controlling signals and nutrients that are identified during the development of tissues in a living body. Yokogawa is also developing technology for improving the productivity of cells and tissues with higher functions by measuring their status and functions.
Yokogawa will work on developing in-line quality control technology and improving the functionality of differentiated cells and tissues, aiming to expedite the progress of regenerative medicine.