About Us

Why Apply Mechanical Load to Cultured Cells?
Cells are subjected to compression, tension, and shear in the body and undergo specific biochemical changes to respond and adapt to deformation. Stressing cells in culture simulates the in vivo environment causing dramatic morphologic and biochemical responses. There are both short and long term changes that occur when cells are loaded in culture, such as alterations in signaling, the rate and amount of protein synthesis, secretion, or degradation, the rate of cell division, changes in energy metabolism, and other changes in biochemistry and bioenergetics.

For these reasons, Flexcell® introduced tension, compression, and fluid shear systems for cell culturing. These systems have broad applications in the biomedical research field since strain, compression, or fluid flow have been found to induce biochemical changes in cells derived from a variety of tissues including cardiac, skeletal and smooth muscle, lung, vascular endothelium, skin, tendon, ligament, cartilage, and bone. Please see our selected publications for a list of articles about the effects of mechanical load applied with Flexcell® equipment on various cell types.

Click here to see videos of Flexcell® products.

 

Our Facility
Flexcell® is a privately held, for-profit company incorporated in 1987. Flexcell® currently maintains operations in Burlington, North Carolina at the Flexcell® Office Park. It is home to our research & development, product engineering, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and warehousing departments.

To support these activities, Flexcell® directly employs twelve staff members. Additionally, Flexcell® uses contract labor to supplement specific short term needs.


Business Center

 

The History of Flexcell®
In 1978, Albert J. Banes, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor in the Surgery Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, received his first small grant for devising a method to apply regulated strain to cultured cells. He built prototypes of the current Flexcell® Tension System in the shop using only a timer, a simple solenoid valve to control pressure in on/off modes, and a needle valve to regulate the magnitude of the pressure. He built a baseplate with vacuum channels in Plexiglas and used natural gum rubber as the seal between the culture plate bottom and the vacuum chamber. Dr. Banes polymerized his own rubber membranes from medical grade Dow silastic components. A cast material that eventually proved satisfactory for the membrane in a 6-well, 35 mm diameter culture plate that had the well bottoms drilled out to receive the cast membranes. A Commodore Vic 20 was the first commercial microprocessor used to control the valves. The software program and a controller board were designed by Dr. Banes and a well grounded electronics engineer, Olivier Monbureau. A Commodore 64 was the next generation computer used, followed by a Tandy computer, then IBM clones. Today, Flexcell® develops its own software and builds custom computers and controller boards and assembles them at its plant in Burlington, NC.

Dr. Banes' intellectual property was awarded the first patent in the field of Cytomechanics. He believed that this technology could become important scientifically as well as medically if a market driver could be found. In his first patent describing the technology, he included the thought that cyclically stretching cells and tissues could lead to adaptation of cells to a mechanically active environment such as dermal fibroblasts cultured in vitro in a skin construct. Along with his father in Pennsylvania, G.B. Banes, J.D., they created Flexcell® Inc. The company's mission was to commercialize the technology to make it available to all scientists as well as find medically relevant uses. His first full publication (Journal of Cell Science, 1985) in the area demonstrated the utility of the system and that cyclic strain altered the expression of cytoplasmic filament proteins such as actin and tubulin in tendon cells.

Continued development of the technologies behind the Flexcell® Tension and Compression Systems has taken much of Dr. Banes' time. Dr. Banes became the first university professor to be permitted to retain his academic professorship and be president of a company (Flexcell® International Corporation) by a decision of the Committee on Industrial Faculty Relations at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. Banes holds three patents on the basic cell stretching technology and several more on other technologies including a DNA transfection technique using flexation of cells and a spill resistant culture plate called the SpillGuard® culture plate. He continues to develop new products for cell culture and cell stretching as well as submit patents assigned to Flexcell® International Corporation.

 

Our Mission
  • To be an industry leading developer and manufacturer of biotechnology products for cellular and tissue biomechanics research.
  • To provide innovative products and solutions to researchers enabling the advancement of molecular biology and tissue engineering research.
  • To be a valued business partner to both our suppliers and distributors and honorable employer to our workforce while maintaining a profitable operation.

 

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