Costly drugs that are used to treat illnesses such as cancer and arthritis could be made more cheaply with a method developed by UK scientists.
Researchers at Edinburgh University have pioneered a simple way to remove dead cells from cell cultures used to make protein-based drugs. Such drugs are increasingly prescribed to treat a range of illnesses but are expensive. Their high costs result from the time-consuming and labour-intensive nature of developing them in cell culture.
However, the Scottish scientists have streamlined this process using magnetic beads coated with special antibodies. The antibodies bind to the dead cells without harming the remaining healthy ones. A magnet is then used to draw the dead cells out, leaving the living cells to produce beneficial proteins more effectively.
Researchers have found that removing dead cells can increase the productivity of cell cultures by more than 100 per cent.
The technique replaces lengthy and potentially damaging methods of cell removal, such as spinning cultures around at high speeds, which can traumatise healthy cells. It could also have implications for vaccine development and stem cell research.
A spin-out company, Immunosolv, has been formed to market the technology following support through Scottish Enterprise’s Proof of Concept Programme and a SMART award.