What are Bioreactors?

Biological reactor are engineering devices or equipment used to carry out industrial scale biological processes such as fermentation and cell culture. They provide controlled environmental conditions required for growing cells, tissues and organs. By controlling factors such as oxygen levels, temperature, pH and nutrients, biological reactor provide optimal conditions for microbial, plant or animal cell growth and metabolism. This enables mass production of biological products like therapeutic proteins, vaccines and antibodies.

Uses of Bioreactors

Biological reactor are mainly used for large-scale manufacturing of biotherapeutic products (biologics) through fermentation and cell culture processes. Some of the major uses of biological reactor include:

- Production of recombinant proteins: Many therapeutic proteins used to treat diseases like diabetes, cancer, hemophilia etc. are produced using Bioreactors. Examples include insulin, monoclonal antibodies, interferons etc.

- Vaccine manufacturing: Many viral and bacterial vaccines are produced by growing the microorganisms in biological reactor. For example, cell-culture based influenza vaccine production.

- Antibiotic production: Several antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections like penicillin are produced commercially using bioreactor fermentation of fungi or bacteria.

- Enzyme production: Industrial enzymes used in food, detergent and biofuel industries are commonly produced via fermentation in biological reactor. Examples include proteases, amylases, lipases etc.

- Biodiesel production: Some biofuels like biodiesel can also be produced by growing algae in large-scale biological reactor with proper nutrients and environmental control.

Types of Biological reactor

There are different types of biological reactor used depending on the process and microorganism/cell type being cultured:

- Stirred tank biological reactor: Consists of a stirred vessel with baffles, agitator and various probes. Most commonly used for bacterial fermentations. Provide excellent mixing.

- Airlift biological reactor: Have internal tubes to circulate medium using air bubbles. Good for delicate cells, tissue cultures and scale-up. Easier to sterilize than stirred tanks.

- Bubble column biological reactor: Similar to airlift but without internal tubes. Provide less shear force on cells. Used for yeast, fungal and mammalian cell culture.

- Fixed-bed biological reactor: Solid media remains fixed while the liquid medium containing nutrients flows through. Used for immobilized plant and fungal cell culture.

- Fluidized bed biological reactor: Solid media is in continuous motion or suspension due to water or gas flow through the reactor. Good contact between cells and medium.

- Membrane biological reactor: Integrate cell retention, separation and chromatography through semipermeable hollow fiber membranes. Useful for high cell-density cultures.

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