Plant cell culture is an established technique for growing suspension cells of higher plants. Our research emphasizes cell cultures for production of valuable chemicals and for carrying out plant propagation through somatic embryogenesis. An overall goal is to biochemically and genetically understand such systems and rationally manipulate them for commercial benefit. In particular, experimental and theoretical analysis of the California poppy plant has been extensively investigated in our labs with emphasis on product extraction and other techniques for redirecting metabolite synthesis and transport. Additionally, a specific system for the development of somatic embryos from carrot suspension cultures in small bioreactor systems has been studied and we have found that embryogenesis is partly regulated by extracellular protein factors.
Chemical and biochemical sensing with fiber optic waveguides is an area of interest in a variety of process industries. Within the diverse field that is bioprocess technology, fermentation monitoring and control is an area that can greatly benefit from ongoing advances in photonics research p; the technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. Currently, it is typical that on-line analysis and fermentation control are carried out within the confines of information obtained from electrochemical probes for pH and dissolved oxygen along with a small variety of exhaust gas analyzers. Recent developments, however, promise to greatly expand these boundaries by including the use of new technologies employing photonics in combination with optical fibers or imaging systems. This technology, dubbed biophotonics, has application to non-invasive or minimally-invasive compositional analysis in a fermentation broth as well as in associated upstream and downstream processing steps. It is also appropriate for cell mass detection in a fermentor and monitoring of the metabolic state of cells in situ. In combination with currently available analytical techniques, a much more robust description of the state of bioprocesses can be obtained. This translates, in the end, to more accurate control and more productive bioprocessing strategies for the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, fine chemicals and the whole host of biotechnology associated products.