A Unique and Unconventional Application for the Cell Stretching System

User Case Study

At Strex, we strive to gain valuable perspectives on the applications that our products help users accomplish. The following is a case study of one of our clients, a team of translational scientists at an innovative biopharmaceutical company. They graciously shared with us their experience with the Strex Automated Cell Stretching System. Our interview with the team has been edited for formatting.

Researchers face significant resource challenges when developing novel therapies.

The development of novel therapies and cures for life-long illnesses can be significantly impeded by a lack of tools that can effectively and rigorously model in vivo conditions during in vitro experiments. Researchers face cost-prohibitive, inflexible, and impractical options that prolong project timelines and negatively impact data output. Cell stretching systems address this challenge for researchers interrogating how cells respond to mechanical stimulation. In recent years, however, unique and unexpected applications for these systems have also begun to emerge.

What kind of research do you focus on at your company?

The company is known for their work on therapeutics addressing cystic fibrosis. More recently, however, they have expanded their investigations into other disease fields as well, including sickle cell anemia and pain.

The team is focused specifically on developing a cure for Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that destroys insulin-producing beta cells in pancreatic islets, also known as islets of Langerhans. As of yet, Type 1 diabetes is incurable with contemporary treatment limited to life-long insulin administration, complicating the lives of people with the disease and straining global healthcare and resources.

This is why they are looking for permanent and effective solutions to Type 1 diabetes. “We are working on the biology and cell therapy sides to help cure the disease,” they said. “Our approach to the problem involves stem cell-derived islets.” The team is interrogating whether exogenous stem cell-derived islets can survive endogenous conditions. “We’re looking into whether our therapy can withstand what happens with natural islets in the body. For example, every breath we take is a movement to a variety of muscles, and every single one of our cells as well. We don’t know what that means for our product.”

Stem cell-derived pancreatic islets may be the key to curing Type 1 diabetes.

What challenges have you faced in your research?

Novel therapies require the development of novel methods. “We work with organoid cluster spheres, but a lot of stretching systems were made for a monolayer single cell type of setup,” the team told us. “Since we are doing something very novel in the industry that a lot of people haven’t done before, we have a lot of questions and very few answers.” They had struggled in the past to find the equipment needed for their specific needs, having to resort to designing and custom building, significantly slowing down their research.

What were your concerns with cell stretching options?

The team began looking into manufactured cell stretching systems that could overcome the roadblocks in their experiment design. In the process, other problems popped up. As they explained, “islets are very sticky, so that can be difficult to work with in a cell stretch system. Also, most equipment is made for single cells, not organoid spheres. We were unsure about how to coat and adhere them, how to distribute equal force to all directions of the sphere.”

One factor in particular was insurmountable when looking into competing systems. “We didn’t go with them because of their cost,” they recounted. The team discovered the Strex Cell Stretching System, which better accommodated their budget and addressed their concerns. “Your system provided us with everything we needed,” they continued. “It gives us goals in mind and a path forward.”

How has your Strex Cell Stretching System helped you in your research?

As any researcher knows all too well, almost all of a project’s timeline consists of setting up and troubleshooting before the actual execution and data collection, a stressful drain on precious resources and time. However, the team detailed to us how their new Strex Cell Stretching System helped expedite the planning stages. “It allows us to move quicker in our timeline,” they told us, smiling. After the initial investment, they said, “it was very affordable to try different things on it, versus other equipment that have continuous costs. The system setup was super straightforward and very easy to work with. We did it by ourselves in under twenty minutes.”

stretch device

The ST-1440 helps scientists investigate cell response to stretching.

Among the highlighted features of the Automated Cell Stretching System are its multiple easy-to-use preprogrammed stretching patterns, 8-chamber high-throughput capabilities, incubator-friendly applicability, and design focused on maintaining a sterile environment for their cells. Best of all, the system gave the team greater control over their experiments.

What other benefits did you find when working with Strex overall?

As they described to us, the team was enthusiastic that Strex has continued to be their partner in research at every step from ordering the Cell Stretching System, to demoing and setting it up, to brainstorming solutions. “Everything has been some of the best support we have had. It has been great communicating with you, and you have been able to answer all of our questions throughout.” In a field offering limited resources for researchers engaged in novel applications, they emphasized the importance of this support, and praised the ongoing assistance they have received in reviewing literature and designing media in which to embed organoid spheres for uniform stretching, among other troubleshooting tips. The team continued, saying, “it’s really exciting to have good communication. We have corresponded a lot, so we’re very happy. We think you do a great job at putting the user first.”

Would you recommend your Cell Stretching System and other Strex products?

We delved into whether the team would share their experiences with Strex with other researchers looking for cell stretching systems for their applications, whether traditional or novel. “We have recommended to other colleagues. They’ve asked if they can get demos as well,” they replied. “Our site is very vocal with each other. Even when we get equipment online, we talk about it among us. If we see that it is successful, we’re ready to share with others.” In that spirit, Strex is working hard to see how other researchers can benefit from its Cell Stretching Systems and other product lines.

What does the future hold for your project, both near and far?

After the setup is complete, the team is excited to begin collecting data in the uniaxial cell stretching phase of their project. With interesting results, they would be eager to move their system into biaxial stretching experiments and exploring various cell types, different kinds of tissue, and other cell encapsulation methods. “The doors really open up, so maybe other Strex devices would be needed,” they said. In the meantime, the team continued, “it’s a long road for our ST-1440.” We are delighted that the Cell Stretching System has been a helpful tool for the research on the viability of stem cell-derived pancreatic islets as a therapeutic strategy for Type 1 diabetes. We are excited for the fascinating data that will come out of the effort, and for the opportunity to assist the company as a partner in research.

Strex Cell Stretching System Custom Patterns

The ST-1440 helps scientists investigate cell response to stretching.

The team at Strex would like to thank our clients for taking the time to share their stories with the Strex Automated Cell Stretching System, model ST-1440. Click here to learn more about Cell Stretching Systems or Strex’s other products. Feel free to reach out to our support team and see how we can help you set up your experiments, or click below to request a demo of our products.