Written by Gregory Arnal from the Brumer lab, Michael Smith Laboratories
Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells are the most widely used cell types for the production of therapeutic proteins in the biotechnology industry. These cells are grown in large vessels known as bioreactors, and the eventual productivity of industrial bioprocesses depends largely on maintaining healthy productive cells. The main mechanism by which cells lose their viability is known as apoptosis, which leads to cell death. Having a method to detect the onset of apoptotic processes is therefore critical and remains a constant challenge with conventional methods in an industrial setting.
At the Michael Smith Laboratories, the research teams of Prof. Piret and Prof. Turner tackled this issue by developing an innovative analytical approach using Raman spectroscopy. Their approach was recently published in Biotechnology and Bioengineering, “Types of cell death and apoptotic stages in Chinese Hamster Ovary cells distinguished by Raman spectroscopy”. Combining the savoir-faire of the Turner lab in Raman spectroscopy and the expertise of the Piret lab in therapeutic cell bioprocesses, they successfully detected apoptosis in CHO cells at an earlier stage than with conventional methods. Different stages of apoptosis were clearly identified, improving the diagnostics and guiding the identification of the stress-source affecting CHO cells in bioreactors. Most importantly, unlike conventional methods, Raman spectroscopy analysis can be performed in real-time, which permits for adjustments to the environmental conditions when the first signs of apoptotic stress appear.
This study ascertains that Raman spectroscopy is a promising tool for detecting cell state and the onset of cell death in bioreactors, and provides opportunities for improved identification and understanding of the critical parameters of industrial processes.