Tissue culture is a technique that refers to the growth of cells, tissues, plants, production of metabolites, etc., in a lab using almost any plant material. This particular method has been adopted by various Agro-biotech companies as their main process of production, often in conjugation with subsystems like attached bioreactors for the production of metabolites and growth of algae to make protein capsules, etc.
Given the delicate nature of tissue culture and its vulnerability to contamination, it is prudent to have a setup that provides the least amount of contamination and production failure with maximum efficiency. To aid this goal – proprietors ensure that any facility that deals in tissue culture has the continuous flow of resources into a well-designed tissue culture plant.
What is a Tissue Culture Plant?
Any good production ‘line’ requires a robust infrastructure. Which can be built to scale, in different shapes and sizes – depending upon the product manufactured. Even though types of products add differences to the plant setup, the key here is to incorporate a basic production design and scale it as required. This process must ensure sterility throughout the entire procedure leading up to the desired results. To ensure these various factors have to be taken into account besides sterility, which includes – temperature control, humidity control, light intensity, and airflow among others.
The basic design of a tissue culture facility
To maintain all the aforementioned factors and ensure efficient production, a tissue culture plant is required to have the following basic designs and parameters.
Office – Every facility requires an office for documentation, team meeting, and activity planning. This includes the lesser controlled area, in terms of aseptic conditions, assuming the air in the facility is cleaned through a filtration system. This, in most cases, connects personnel to the rest of the facility. Since the processes are sensitive, certain gowning processes are used to maintain the level of asepsis required.
General Laboratory – This is the general area used for unsterilized raw material, reagent storage, media preparation, and other lab work.
Ideally, in a larger facility, a clean corridor will connect the analyst to a room specially designated for media preparation and autoclave where the media (over hundreds of liters) along with labware are sterilized and unloaded into a temperature and pressure-controlled storage room. This storage is to be maintained under high aseptic conditions, which is achieved through air filtration units, double gowning procedures, and multiple access points with positive pressure doors. It is from this point that all materials such as media, labware, and other sterilized items will be transferred to the analysis and manipulation area.
Inoculation Room (Analysis and Manipulation area) – This sterile area is equipped with laminar airflow machines for inoculation and other processes. Most facilities are centrally air-conditioned, providing particulate and contamination-free testing and inoculation areas. Such rooms can be scaled in size depending upon the production demand.
Each inoculation room is ideally connected to the wash area and culture storage rooms, at different points. These connections are called pass-boxes, which are sterilized, equipped with UV lamps, predominantly used to transfer materials, either for washing or to the culture room.
In certain cases, there can be a testing area solely set up for analytics like media testing, process standardization, water testing, sterility testing, etc. This area is to be separated from any room designated for inoculation that leads to production.
In-Process Quality Control( IPQC) – This is a quality check parameter that saves a facility from incurring losses by preventing the spread of contamination or disruptions in the production process. For example – analysts will make sure that only clean cultures pass onto the next part of the production cycle, weeding out bacterial and fungal infections. This helps in maintaining the quality of the product as well.
Culture Rooms – After inoculation, the material is transferred to sterile holdings called culture rooms or growth rooms. These rooms are capable of temperature, humidity, and light control. These parameters mimic those of the actual plant in nature, to simulate the natural environment. The correct quality lumen lights along with even temperatures across the room are essential. A change in any of these parameters can have serious consequences on the production process.
Hardening Areas (Greenhouse and Shades) – The hardening process refers to the acclimatization of lab-produced plants to the outside elements. This process is further divided into primary hardening and secondary hardening. Many facilities like H.U.Gugle Agro Biotech, employ poly-tunnels and sheds. This allows for 100% humidity control. These areas are to be equipped with foggers and spray mists for temperature control to aid the process of hardening.
Energy Requirements – To keep the production line running an ample amount of energy is required. Given the sensitive nature of tissue culture, power backups are essential. Thus, it is required that an agro-biotech facility that employs the culture process be equipped adequately with transformers and generators.
The dynamic nature of biotechnology has driven the industry to control all the parameters and maintain stringent control over biotech-driven processes. Thus, leading us to develop guidelines and schematics to maintain good manufacturing practices (GMP) while providing the best output. Given that agro-biotech has been pitched to be the next best thing in crop improvement and agriculture as a whole, it is necessary to establish a certain design to achieve marketable results. Even though various schematics exist it is prudent to have infrastructure that suits production needs while maintaining quality.