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Hydrogels: a unique solution for stem cell storage and transport

Copyright: Dr Che Connon/University of Reading

BBSRC innovation funding has enabled development of a new method for transporting living cells, such as stem cells. The technology, where cells are encased within a hydrogel, allows cell storage at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Data breakout

12 Number of material transfer agreements signed with companies
11.7% Annual increase of stem cell market
80% Viability of stem cells after two weeks in hydrogel storage

Hydrogels, which are 'biocompatible' and hence commonly found in bathroom products and contact lenses, provide the cell therapy industry with an alternative to freezing cells for 'cold chain' transport, (a temperature-controlled supply chain) which can be complex and expensive, thus greatly increasing the number of places that can make use of cell-based therapies. One market research report suggested that the global stem cell market is likely to grow from $3.8Bn in 2011 to around $6.6Bn by 2016.

BBSRC support, including a Follow-on Fund Pathfinder grant, funding from the Bioprocessing Research Industry Club (BRIC) and a Sparking Impact award played an important role in financing the development of the technology, alongside an MRC grant and funding from the University of Reading.

The research is led by Che Connon, Professor of Tissue Engineering at Newcastle University and formerly of the University of Reading where much of the hydrogel work took place.

So far Connon has established non-disclosure agreements with 25 companies, allowing them to access potential commercial applications. The researchers are also discussing with clinicians how hydrogels could benefit stem cell therapies currently undergoing or soon to enter clinical trials, and have an evaluation license in place to explore using the hydrogels for transporting livestock semen for artificial insemination.

Read the full impact evidence report: