Impact of oxygen levels on human hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell expansion

Abhilasha Tiwari, Cynthia S. Wong, Lakshmi P Nekkanti, James A. Deane, Courtney McDonald, Graham Jenkin, Mark A. Kirkland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Oxygen levels are an important variable during the in vitro culture of stem cells. There has been increasing interest in the use of low oxygen to maximize proliferation and, in some cases, effect differentiation of stem cell populations. It is generally assumed that the defined pO2 in the incubator reflects the pO2 to which the stem cells are being exposed. However, we demonstrate that the pO2 experienced by cells in static culture can change dramatically during the course of culture as cell numbers increase and as the oxygen utilization by cells exceeds the diffusion of oxygen through the media. Dynamic culture (whereby the cell culture plate is in constant motion) largely eliminates this effect, and a combination of low ambient oxygen and dynamic culture results in a fourfold increase in reconstituting capacity of human hematopoietic stem cells compared with those cultured in static culture at ambient oxygen tension. Cells cultured dynamically at 5% oxygen exhibited the best expansion: 30-fold increase by flow cytometry, 120-fold increase by colony assay, and 11% of human CD45 engraftment in the bone marrow of NOD/SCID mice. To our knowledge, this is the first study to compare individual and combined effects of oxygen and static or dynamic culture on hematopoietic ex vivo expansion. Understanding and controlling the effective oxygen tension experienced by cells may be important in clinical stem cell expansion systems, and these results may have relevance to the interpretation of low oxygen culture studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1604-1613
Number of pages10
JournalStem Cells and Development
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2016

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