Microcarriers with a large surface area have attracted much attention in the field of large-scale cell culture. The preparation of microcarriers is mainly based on methods such as emulsification, suspension polymerization, solvent evaporation, organic phase separation (cohesion) and spray drying. Many of these require the use of organic solvents. In general, organic solvents are considered to be toxic and not conducive to environmental protection.
Zein microcarriers were successfully prepared by the team of Professor Wang Jinye, School of Biomedical Engineering, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, using glycerol as dispersing medium. The size of these microcarriers was controllable, and the preparation process was simple to perform. Vero cells, commonly used in the production of vaccines, were cultured on the surface of the zein microcarriers to evaluate the microcarriers’ performance in cell culture. The cells could attach and spread on the surface, without any difference compared with cells on the surface of Cytodex 1. The cell density reached its maximum on the fourth day, which was approximately 10 times the initial density. This is the first report that zein can be used as a microcarrier for the mass production of a large-scale suspension cell culture, which shows the potential of zein as a replacement for commercial non-degradable materials.