A three-dimensional (3D) culture system for growing long-lived B lymphocytes has been invented. The capabilities afforded by the system can be expected to expand the range of options for immunological research and related activities, including testing of immunogenicity of vaccine candidates in vitro, generation of human monoclonal antibodies, and immunotherapy.

Mature lymphocytes, which are the effectors of adaptive immune responses in vertebrates, are extremely susceptible to apoptotic death, and depend on continuous reception of survival-inducing stimulation (in the forms of cytokines, cell-to-cell contacts, and antigen receptor signaling) from the microenvironment. For this reason, efforts to develop systems for long-term culture of functional, non-transformed and non-activated mature lymphocytes have been unsuccessful until now.

The bone-marrow microenvironment supports the growth and differentiation of many hematopoietic lineages, in addition to B-lymphocytes. Primary bone-marrow cell cultures designed to promote the development of specific cell types in vitro are highly desirable experimental systems, amenable to manipulation under controlled conditions. However, the dynamic and complex network of stromal cells and insoluble matrix proteins is disrupted in prior plate- and flask-based culture systems, wherein the microenvironments have a predominantly two-dimensional (2D) character. In 2D bone-marrow cultures, normal B-lymphoid cells become progressively skewed toward precursor B-cell populations that do not retain a normal immunophenotype, and such mature B-lymphocytes as those harvested from the spleen or lymph nodes do not survive beyond several days ex vivo in the absence of mitogenic stimulation.

The present 3D culture system is a bioreactor that contains highly porous artificial scaffolding that supports the long-term culture of bone marrow, spleen, and lymph-node samples. In this system, unlike in 2D culture systems, B-cell subpopulations developing within 3D cultures that have been modified to foster lymphopoiesis retain an immunophenotype that closely recapitulates cells in fresh bone marrow harvests. The 3D culture system has been found to be capable of supporting long-lived (8 weeks) populations of B and T lymphocytes from peripheral lymphoid organs, in the absence of activation signals, to an extent not achievable by conventional culture techniques. Interestingly, it has been found that 3D-culture B cells display a phenotype that has characteristics of both B1a and B2 cells. These promising preliminary observations suggest that the 3D culture system could be used with success in the study of peripheral-B-lymphocyte biology and in the development of biotechnological techniques and processes.

This work was done by J. H. David Wu and Andrea Bottaro of the University of Rochester for Johnson Space Center. For further information, contact the Johnson Commercial Technology Office at (281) 483-3809.

In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to:

University of Rochester, Chemical Engineering
518 Hylan Building
P.O. Box 270140
Rochester, NY 14627-0140
Phone No.: (585) 275-3998
Web: www.rochester.edu/ott/

Refer to MSC-23571-1, volume and number of this Medical Design Briefs issue, and the page number.