Adult pluripotent stem cells are a cellular resource representing unprecedented potential for cell. therapy and tissue engineering. Complementary to this promise, there is a need for efficient bioprocesses for their large scale expansion and/or differentiation. With this goat in mind, our work focused on the development of three-dimensional (3-D) culture systems for controlled expansion of adult pancreatic stem cells (PSCs). For this purpose, two different culturing strategies were evaluated, using spinner vessels: cell aggregated cultures versus microcarrier technology. The use of microcarrier supports (Cytodex 1 and Cytodex 3) rendered expanded cell populations which retained their self-renewal ability, cell marker, and the potential to differentiate into adipocytes. This strategy surmounted the drawbacks of aggregates in culture which were demonstrably unfeasible as cells clumped together did not proliferate and lost PSC marker expression. Furthermore, the results obtained showed that although both microcarriers tested here were suitable for sustaining cell. expansion, Cytodex 3 provided a better substrate for the promotion of cell adherence and growth. For the latter approach, the potential of bioreactor technology was combined with the efficient Cytodex 3 strategy under controlled environmental conditions (pH-7.2, pO(2)-30% and temperature-37 degrees C); cell growth was more efficient, as shown by faster doubling time, higher growth rate and higher fold increase in cell concentration, when compared to spinner cultures. This study describes a robust bioprocess for the controlled expansion of adult PSC, representing an efficient starting point for the development of novel technologies for cell therapy. (C) 2008 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.