(19)
(11)EP 3 366 761 A1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT APPLICATION
published in accordance with Art. 153(4) EPC

(43)Date of publication:
29.08.2018 Bulletin 2018/35

(21)Application number: 16857464.8

(22)Date of filing:  19.10.2016
(51)Int. Cl.: 
C12M 1/00  (2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/JP2016/080946
(87)International publication number:
WO 2017/069151 (27.04.2017 Gazette  2017/17)
(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR
Designated Extension States:
BA ME
Designated Validation States:
MA MD

(30)Priority: 20.10.2015 JP 2015206196

(71)Applicant: Rohto Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.
Osaka-shi Osaka 544-8666 (JP)

(72)Inventors:
  • KOIKE, Tetsuo
    Osaka-shi Osaka 544-8666 (JP)
  • TAKIMOTO, Masahiro
    Osaka-shi Osaka 544-8666 (JP)
  • YAGI, Yoshiki
    Kuse-gun Kyoto 613-0036 (JP)

(74)Representative: DTS Zürich 
Resirain 1
8125 Zollikerberg/Zürich
8125 Zollikerberg/Zürich (CH)

  


(54)CELL PROCESSING DEVICE


(57) Provided is a cell treatment apparatus including a treatment chamber that is configured to secure a space for arranging therein a plurality of containers for use in treatment of cells in an inner space maintained in aseptic conditions, a gripping mechanism that is arranged in the treatment chamber and is configured to grip the plurality of containers arranged in the space, wherein the plurality of containers are capable of being arranged in the space so as to have their positions matched with predetermined positions of the plurality of containers so that the gripping mechanism can grip a container to be selected based on a command from among the plurality of containers.




Description

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION


FIELD



[0001] This application claims priority to Japanese Patent Application No. 2015-206196, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

[0002] The present invention relates to a cell treatment apparatus that includes a treatment chamber for cell treatment.

BACKGROUND



[0003] In recent years, cell culture is performed using tissues and cells of various sites of human body, fertilized eggs, or the like, and the cultured cells have been put to practical use for regenerative medicine. In the cell culture, it is important to prevent contamination of cells by bacteria or the like during the culture. Therefore, a cell treatment apparatus that enables the culture of cells within a housing having a configuration that can maintain thereinside in aseptic conditions has been already proposed.

[0004] The aforementioned cell treatment apparatus includes an operation section that serves as a space for treating cells, a plurality of incubator sections that culture cells, a frozen storage section and a normal temperature storage section that serve as storage sections for storing reagents and drugs, and a storage and retrieval section that stores and retrieves cells to be cultured, cultured cells, reagents and drugs, as well as culture instruments. In the operation section, a robot for performing culture treatment of cells and a culture operation part for culture operation are arranged. Further, in the culture operation part, a turn table on which a pipette device is placed and a centrifuge tube handling device are arranged (for example, Patent Literature 1).

CITATION LIST


Patent Literature



[0005] Patent Literature 1: JP 2008-54690 A (see Fig. 1 and Fig. 2)

SUMMARY


Technical Problem



[0006] In the aforementioned configuration of Patent Literature 1, it is necessary for the robot to take out the necessary reagents and drugs from the refrigeration storage section and the normal temperature storage section every time cell culture treatment for one subject is performed. Consequently, there is an inconvenience that many cell culturing processes cannot be efficiently treated.

[0007] Therefore, the present invention has been conceived in view of the above circumstances, and it is an object to provide a cell treatment apparatus that can efficiently treat many cell culturing processes.

Solution to Problem



[0008] A cell treatment apparatus according to the present invention includes: a treatment chamber that has an inner space maintained in aseptic conditions and is configured to secure in the inner space a space for arranging therein a plurality of containers for use in treatment of cells; and a gripping mechanism that is arranged in the treatment chamber and is configured to grip the plurality of containers arranged in the space, wherein the plurality of containers are configured to be capable of being arranged in the space so as to have their positions matched with predetermined positions of the plurality of containers so that the gripping mechanism can grip a container to be selected based on a command from among the plurality of containers.

[0009] Further, the cell treatment apparatus according to the present invention may be configured so that the cell treatment apparatus includes at least one tray that houses the plurality of containers while positioning them therein, wherein the treatment chamber includes an isolator that has the space for treating cells therein, and a pass box that includes a carrying-in unit to carry the tray into the isolator, wherein the plurality of containers are arranged at predetermined positions in the space by arranging in the space the at least one tray, which has the plurality of containers housed therein, and wherein the gripping mechanism is arranged in the isolator.

[0010] Further, the cell treatment apparatus according to the present invention may be configured so that the tray includes a housing body that has an upwardly opening box shape, and a partitioning plate that is attachable to and detachable from the tray so that the containers are housed in the housing body while being positioned therein.

[0011] Further, the cell treatment apparatus according to the present invention may be configured so that the carrying-in unit includes a movable member that can move the tray, which is placed thereon in the pass box, into the isolator, and a guide unit that is located in the isolator to guide the tray, which is carried into the isolator by the movable member, in a direction crossing a carrying-in direction.

[0012] Further, the cell treatment apparatus according to the present invention may be configured so that the cell treatment apparatus includes: an imaging device that is configured to image the containers arranged in the tray in the pass box; a storage device that is configured to prestore positions of the containers relative to the tray; and a determining device that is configured to determine whether the positions of the containers relative to the tray stored by the storage device are matched with positions of the containers relative to the tray that has been imaged by the imaging device, wherein, when the determining device determines that they are matched with each other, the tray is carried into the isolator by the movable member, and the gripping mechanism moves the tray, which has been carried into the isolator, in a direction crossing a carrying-in direction so that the plurality of containers are located at the predetermined positions.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS



[0013] 

Fig. 1 is a front view of an apparatus to produce cultured cell products of the present invention.

Fig. 2 is a plan view of the aforementioned production apparatus.

Fig. 3 is a view of the aforementioned production apparatus as seen from the outlet side.

Fig. 4 is an explanatory diagram showing the state immediately before a vessel cap is opened by a robot arm.

Fig. 5 is a view as seen from the direction of arrow A-A in Fig. 2.

Fig. 6 is a cross sectional view taken along line B-B in Fig. 2.

Fig. 7 is a cross sectional view taken along line C-C in Fig. 2.

Fig. 8 is a plan view showing a door slide structure included in a decontamination chamber of a pass box.

Fig. 9 is a view as seen from the direction of arrow D-D in Fig. 8.

Fig. 10 is a view as seen from the direction of arrow E-E in Fig. 8.

Fig. 11A is a plan view of a tray that houses containers.

Fig. 11B is a plan view of a tray having a hole for housing the containers that is partially different in shape from the hole of the tray in Fig. 11A.

Fig. 12A is a plan view showing a configuration of a first carrying-in unit that is configured to carry a first tray from a pass box on a left side into the isolator.

Fig. 12B is a side view showing the configuration of the first carrying-in unit that is configured to carry the first tray from the pass box on the left side into the isolator.

Fig. 13A is a plan view showing a configuration of a second carrying-in unit that is configured to carry a second tray from a pass box on a right side into the isolator.

Fig. 13B is a side view showing the configuration of the second carrying-in unit that is configured to carry the second tray from a pass box on a right side into the isolator.

Fig. 14A is a plan view showing a site where trays carried into the isolator are aligned.

Fig. 14B is a front view showing the site where the trays carried into the isolator are aligned.

Fig. 15 is a plan view showing the state where the trays carried into the isolator from the pass box on the left side are aligned.

Fig. 16 is a side view showing the state where the containers housed in the tray within the pass box are imaged by a camera.

Fig. 17 is a block diagram showing the inner configuration of a correct/incorrect determining apparatus.

Fig. 18 is a plan view of a tray on which containers are housed in an incorrect posture (facing direction).


DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS



[0014] Hereinafter, an apparatus to produce cultured cell products (hereinafter, referred to as production apparatus) that is an example of a cell treatment apparatus of the present invention will be described. In the following description on the front, rear, left, and right directions, the left and right directions correspond to the state shown in Fig. 1 and Fig. 2, and the front and rear directions correspond to the state of Fig. 2 where the lower side corresponds to the "front" and the upper side corresponds to the "rear" (the directions are shown also in Fig. 2).

[0015] Fig. 1 to Fig. 3 show the production apparatus of this embodiment. This production apparatus includes a plurality of incubators 2 configured to each house a cell culture vessel (hereinafter referred to as a culture vessel) 1, a horizontally elongated isolator 3 having its internal space maintained in aseptic conditions and treating cells contained in the culture vessel 1 transferred from the incubator 2 in the internal space, and a plurality (two in Fig. 2) of pass boxes 4 configured to be capable of carrying an article (including a container containing a reagent) necessary for subdividing and putting-in of cells cultured in the culture vessel 1. As the culture vessel 1, a HYPERFlask (manufactured by Corning Incorporated) capable of culturing cells in multilayers, for example, can be used. Each part is controlled by a control device X schematically shown in Fig. 1. The control device X may be provided integrally with the production apparatus or may be a separate body (such as a personal computer) connected to the production apparatus in a wired or wireless manner. Further, it is also possible to provide the control device X integrally with the production apparatus and provide only an operation section of the control device X that is operated by an operator (such as a tablet terminal) as a separate body from the production apparatus. In this embodiment, the treatment chamber for treating cells is constituted by the isolator 3 and two pass boxes 4, 4, but can be constituted only by the isolator 3 without the two pass boxes 4, 4.

[0016] The incubators 2 are provided while being vertically stacked in two stages as shown in Fig. 1, and six units of the incubators 2 are provided in total at three points in total including one point at the left end of the isolator 3 and two points in the left end part behind the isolator 3, as shown in Fig. 2. Two incubators 2, 2 in the upper stage and the lower stage have the same configuration, and each of the incubators 2 is provided with racks (not shown) capable of housing a large number of the culture vessels 1 within a casing 2A. The casing 2A has a box shape with one lateral side opening so that the culture vessels 1 can be taken in and out through the lateral side. Two doors 2B and 2C configured to close the opening on the one lateral side of the casing 2A are attached to the casing 2A so as to be freely openable. For example, the inside door 2C is formed with a transparent material, so that the number of the culture vessels 1 housed therein and the state of the cell culture can be checked only by opening the outside door 2B while the opening is closed by the inside door 2C. Further, carbon dioxide gas for adjusting the culture atmosphere is configured to be supplied into the incubators 2. The culture vessels 1 housed on the racks inside the incubators 2 are configured to be delivered onto a plurality of mounting tables 5 provided in the isolator 3 by a delivery mechanism, which is not shown. Six units of the mounting tables 5, which is the same number as the number of the incubators 2, are arranged corresponding to the incubators 2.

[0017] As described above, the isolator 3 is horizontally elongated (in this embodiment, it is rectangular in planer view), where one set (two units on the upper and lower sides) of incubators 2 is located on the short side of the isolator 3 (in this embodiment, the left side), and a plurality of sets (in this embodiment, two sets) of incubators 2 are located on the longitudinal side (in this embodiment, the rear side). This configuration can reduce the size of the production apparatus without decreasing the number of cultured cells.

[0018] The isolator 3 includes an observation section 8 including two first robot arms 6 and 7 configured as a gripping mechanism to move the culture vessels 1 to an observation position so that the degree of growth in the culture vessels 1 taken out of the incubators 2 is checked, a processing section 13 provided continuously with the observation section 8 and including three second robot arms 10, 11, and 12 configured as a gripping mechanism to perform various processes for transferring cells in the culture vessels 1 that have a specified number of cells out of the culture vessels 1 observed in the observation section 8 into a large number of product containers 9 (such as vial containers, see the enlarged view of Fig. 1), which are carried in from the pass boxes 4, 4, and an outlet 14 configured to allow the large number of product containers 9 into which the cells have been transferred to be taken out therethrough. A large number of work gloves (not shown) that allow the operator to perform operations by putting their hands into the isolator 3 are attached onto the front and rear walls of the isolator 3. As shown in Fig. 2, the five robot arms 6, 7, 10, 11, and 12 are aligned in a straight line extending in the left and right directions along the longitudinal direction of the isolator 3.

[0019] With reference to the left and right directions, the first robot arm 6 on the left side corresponds to one set of incubators 2 located on the short side of the isolator 3 (in this embodiment, on the left side) and one set of incubators 2 on the left side out of the sets of incubators 2 located on the longitudinal side (in this embodiment, on the rear side), and can handle the culture vessels 1 that are housed in these incubators 2 (the range that can be reached by each robot arm (in planer view) is shown in Fig. 2 with a dashed-double-dotted circle). Further, the first robot arm 7 on the right side corresponds to one set of incubators 2 on the right side out of the sets of incubators 2 located on the longitudinal side of the isolator 3, and can handle the culture vessels 1 housed in the incubators 2.

[0020] With reference to the left and right directions, the second robot arm 10 on the left side and the second robot arm 11 in the middle correspond to the pass box 4 on the left side out of the pass boxes 4 located on the longitudinal side of the isolator 3 (in this embodiment, on the rear side), and can handle articles and reagents to be housed (or having been housed) in the pass box 4.

[0021] The second robot arm 12 on the right side corresponds to the pass box 4 on the right side out of the pass boxes 4 located on the longitudinal side of the isolator 3 (in this embodiment, on the rear side) and a box 22 for carrying out the product containers 9, and can handle articles and reagents to be housed (or having been housed) in the pass box 4, and the product containers 9 to be housed in the box 22.

[0022] As seen from the overlapping of the dashed-double-dotted circles shown in Fig. 2, the five robot arms 6, 7, 10, 11, and 12 are arranged in a positional relationship so as to be capable of passing articles to each other.

[0023] In this way, the robot arms 6, 7, 10, 11, and 12 are located within the isolator 3, thereby enabling each of the robot arms 6, 7, 10, 11, and 12 to act on the incubators 2, the isolator 3, the pass boxes 4, and the box 22 according to the purpose. Thus, it is possible to improve the working efficiency and contribute to mass production of cultured cell products.

[0024] Since the first robot arms 6 and 7 and the second robot arms 10, 11, and 12 in this embodiment have the same configuration, only the first robot arm 6 located at the left end will be described. The first robot arm 6 is constituted by an articulated robot arm, and includes a fixed part 6A fixed to a base member 15 of the isolator 3, a base part 6B that is pivotable about the vertical axis at the distal end part of the fixed part 6A, a first arm 6C that is swingable about the horizontal axis at the distal end part of the base part 6B, a second arm 6D that is swingable about the horizontal axis at the distal end part of the first arm 6C, a third arm 6E that is swingable about the horizontal axis at the distal end part of the second arm 6D, and a pair of grips 6F, 6F that are attached to the distal end of the third arm 6E so as to be opposed thereto. The pair of grips 6F, 6F are configured to be capable of moving close to and away from each other. The articulated first robot arms 6 and 7 hold the culture vessels 1 delivered from the incubators 2 using the pair of grips 6F, 6F (see Fig. 1) and move them to a microscope 16 at the observation position. The second robot arms 10, 11, and 12 are configured to hold such as a centrifuge tube 17 and a preparation tank 18 shown in Fig. 1 in addition to the culture vessels 1 so as to be capable of performing various processes.

[0025] The microscope 16 located at the observation position is arranged between the two first robot arms 6 and 7. By arranging the microscope 16 as above, it is possible to move the culture vessels 1 to the microscope 16 using the first robot arm 6 on the left side so as to observe the cells, and hold the culture vessels 1 that have been determined as a result of the observation to have a specified number of cells so as to rapidly move them to the processing section 13 side, using the first robot arm 7 on the right side. In other words, the first robot arm 6 on the left side mainly performs the operation to move the culture vessels 1 to the microscope 16, and the first robot arm 7 on the right side performs the operation to move the culture vessels 1 that have been determined to have a specified number of cells toward the processing section 13 side, so that the operation speed can be accelerated. The determination on whether the culture vessels 1 have a specified number of cells may be made by counting the number of cells by visual inspection of the operator (human) of the production apparatus or may be made automatically by the control device X based on the number of cells calculated by analyzing an image captured by a camera provided in the isolator 3 so as to automatically calculate the number of cells. The culture vessels 1 that are delivered from the incubator 2 located opposed to the first robot arm 7 on the right side are held by the first robot arm 7 on the right side to be moved to the microscope 16. Further, a microscope 25 for observing cells is provided also in the processing section 13. The object such as a counting chamber placed on the observation stage of the microscope 25 is to be held by the second robot arm 12 at the right end to be moved.

[0026] The culture vessels 1 after the observation are conveyed not only by being directly passed from the first robot arm 7 on the right side to the second robot arms 10 arranged at the left end of the processing section 13. For example, in the case where the second robot arm 10 is in an operation, the culture vessels 1 are conveyed by a conveying apparatus 19 to a position where the second robot arm 10 at the left end of the processing section 13 or the second robot arm 11 arranged at horizontal center of the processing section 13 can grip them. The conveying apparatus 19 is provided along the front sidewall of the isolator 3 and is set to a length that allows the conveying apparatus 19 to convey them from the right end part of the observation section 8 of the isolator 3 to the horizontal center of the processing section 13. Accordingly, when the first robot arm 7 on the right side passes the culture vessels 1 after the observation to the conveyance starting end part of the conveying apparatus 19, the conveying apparatus 19 conveys the culture vessels 1 to the position where one of the two second robot arms 10 and 11 can grip them.

[0027] The conveying apparatus 19 is provided corresponding to at least one robot arm (in this embodiment, the first robot arm 7) located in the observation section 8 and a plurality of robot arms (in this embodiment, the two second robot arms 10 and 11) located in the processing section 13. The first robot arm 7 can directly deliver the articles to the second robot arm 10. The conveying apparatus 19 can deliver the articles to the first robot arm 7 and the third robot arm 11 between which direct delivery of the articles is impossible. Therefore, even in the case where the articles cannot be delivered from the first robot arm 7 to the third robot arm 11 via the second robot arm 10 due to the second robot arm 10 being in operation, the articles can be delivered from the first robot arm 7 to the third robot arm 11 via the conveying apparatus 19. Therefore, the articles can be conveyed in parallel (via a plurality of routes) within the isolator 3. Accordingly, the working efficiency within the isolator 3 can be improved, and thus the productivity can be improved.

[0028]  In the processing section 13, three units of the second robot arms 10, 11, and 12 are arranged at equal intervals, and the intervals are set to be smaller than the interval between the two first robot arms 6 and 7, so that the processing section 13 is configured to be higher in the speed of various processes performed between the second robot arms 10 and 11 or 11 and 12. As shown in Fig. 4, an immovable fixed auxiliary arm 20 is provided at a position in the vicinity of each of the second robot arms 10, 11, and 12 and below each of the second robot arms 10, 11, and 12. The auxiliary arm 20 includes a fixed part 20A fixed to a fixing member 21, and a pair of grips 20B, 20B (in Fig. 4, only the one on the front side is shown) attached so as to be capable of moving close to and away from the fixed part 20A. In Fig. 4, for example, after the upper end part of the preparation tank 18 is held by the second robot arm 10, 11, or 12, so as to be moved to a position where it can be gripped by the pair of grips 20B, 20B of the auxiliary arm 20, the lower end part of the preparation tank 18 is gripped by the pair of grips 20B, 20B of the auxiliary arm 20. In this way, a cap 18A of the preparation tank 18 can be opened or closed by the single second robot arm 10, 11, or 12. Further, a program to open and close screw caps that are provided on a plurality of types of containers is stored in the second robot arms 10, 11, and 12, so that the second robot arms 10, 11, and 12 can open and close the screw caps provided on the plurality of types of containers. Therefore, it is not necessary to unify the types of containers into the same type, and thus the production apparatus of cultured cell products can be easily achieved. Also in the first robot arms 6 and 7, such a program may be stored.

[0029] The two pass boxes 4, 4 are provided to be continuous with the rear wall of the processing section 13. One (on the left side) of the pass boxes 4 is arranged so that the articles such as a plurality of types of containers including the product containers 9, the culture vessels 1 and the centrifuge tube 17, the preparation tank 18, which is a container in which drugs are put, and the like can be carried therein passing through between the second robot arm 10 located at the left end and the second robot arm 11 located at the center. The other (on the right side) of the pass boxes 4 is arranged so that the articles are carried to the second robot arm 12 located at the right end. The articles (various types of containers) to be carried from the pass box 4 on the left side are handled using the second robot arm 10 located at the left end and the second robot arm 11 located at the center, and the articles (containers) to be carried from the pass box 4 on the right side are handled using the second robot arm 12 located at the right end.

[0030] As described above, the isolator 3 is horizontally elongated, and the plurality (in this embodiment, two) of pass boxes 4 are located on the longitudinal side of the isolator 3 (in this embodiment, on the rear side). This configuration can reduce the size of the production apparatus without limiting the amount of articles to be carried into the isolator 3.

[0031] The opening of the outlet 14 is configured to have a size such that the second robot arm 12 located at the right end can easily enter therethrough. The outlet 14 is provided with a freely openable electric shutter (not shown) and is provided continuously with the box 22 that forms a space in which the product containers 9 moved through the outlet 14 to the outside of the isolator 3 are kept for a while.

[0032] The processing section 13 includes a first transfer processing unit configured to transfer a cell-containing liquid housed in the culture vessels 1 received from the first robot arm 7 into the centrifuge tube 17 using the second robot arm 10, a separation processing unit configured to separate the cells and a liquid portion by subjecting the centrifuge tube 17 to a centrifuge 26 using the second robot arm 10, and a second transfer unit configured to transfer a specified number of cells within the centrifuge tube 17 into a large number of the product containers 9 while a preservative solution (cryopreservation solution) is put into the centrifuge tube 17 after removing at least part of the liquid portion separated in the separation processing unit from the centrifuge tube 17, using the second robot arm 10. In the description of this embodiment, the term "cell-containing liquid" simply means a "liquid containing cells" and is not limited to a liquid in a specific state.

[0033] Further, the processing section 13 includes a medium-replacing unit configured to replace the culture medium within the culture vessels 1 taken out of the incubators 2 using the first robot arm 7, in which the medium-replacing unit is configured to open the caps of the culture vessels 1 received by the second robot arm 10 from the first robot arm 7, to dispose of the culture medium within the culture vessels 1, to supply another culture medium into the cell culture vessels 1, to put the caps thereon, and to return them to the first robot arm 7.

[0034] The processing section 13 configured as above is capable of performing a first process of thawing frozen cells and seeding them, a second process (passage process) of collecting the cells and seeding them on a large number of culture vessels, and a third process of collecting the cultured cells in the culture vessels after the passage process, subdividing the collected cells, transferring them into the product containers 9, and carrying them out through the outlet 14.

[0035] Provided at a position close to the processing section 13 within the observation section is a large-size waste disposal part 23 for disposal of large-size waste products such as the centrifuge tube 17 and the preparation tank 18, in addition to the cell culture vessels 1, which become unnecessary during the aforementioned various processes. Provided at a position close to the box 22 within the processing section 13 is a small-size waste disposal part 24 for disposal of small size waste products such as pipette tips (suction openings mounted to pipettes, not shown).

[0036]  The two pass boxes 4 have the same configuration, and as shown in Fig. 2, each of the pass boxes 4 includes a first box 27 that constitutes a clean bench chamber R1 for carrying articles such as containers from outside thereinto, and a second box 28 that constitutes a decontamination chamber R2 for carrying containers from the clean bench chamber into the isolator 3. As shown in Fig. 5, each of inner side surfaces respectively opposed to the second boxes 28, 28 (only one of them is shown in Fig. 5) has a large number of (four in Fig. 5) glove ports G1, G1 and G2, G2 that allow the operator to put the hand in the decontamination chamber R2 for operation.

[0037] As shown in Fig. 5, shutters 34 (only one of them is shown in Fig. 5) that can slide in the vertical direction are each provided on one lateral side of each of the two opposed clean bench chambers so as to change the size of an opening 34K formed below the shutter 34 by moving it up and down. Herein, the opening 34K has a size of substantially one fourth of an area when the shutter 34 is in the fully opened position. Containers are carried into the clean bench chamber through the opening 34K for treatments such as decontamination with alcohol.

[0038] The clean bench chamber includes a decontamination chamber opening 35A that is openable and closable for carrying containers into the decontamination chamber. As shown in Fig. 7, this decontamination chamber opening 35A is covered by a first cover 35 and can be opened and closed by moving up and down the first cover 35 using an air cylinder 36. The first cover 35 is formed by a plate-shaped member having a substantially square shape, and is vertically movably supported to a rear side wall 28A of the second box 28 by a guide mechanism (not shown). The air cylinder 36 has a cylinder tube 36B that is fixed to the rear side wall 28A of the second box 28 with a proximal end of the cylinder tube 36B upwardly oriented, and has a piston rod 36A that is connected to a lower end of the first cover 35 with a distal end of the piston rod 36A oriented downwardly. Accordingly, the piston rod 36A of the air cylinder 36 is retracted to slide the first cover 35 upwardly so that the decontamination chamber opening 35A is brought into an opened state, and the piston rod 36A of the air cylinder 36 in the retracted state is extended to downwardly slide the first cover 35, which has been slid upwardly, so that the decontamination chamber opening 35A can be brought into a closed state.

[0039] The decontamination chamber includes an isolator opening 37A that can be opened and closed, through which containers carried from the clean bench chamber into the decontamination chamber is carried into the isolator 3. As shown in Fig. 8 to Fig. 10, the isolator opening 37A is covered by a second cover 37, which is slid in the lateral direction to be able to open and close the isolator opening 37A. The second cover 37 is formed by a plate-shaped member having a substantially square shape, includes a pair of left and right handles 37H, 37H for opening and closing operation at both ends in the slide direction, and is configured so as to be able to move in the lateral direction while having its upper and lower ends supported by a pair of upper and lower guide rails 38 and 39, respectively. The upper guide rail 38 and the lower guide rail 39 are arranged to oppose to each other in the vertical direction, and are formed respectively by L-shaped members fixed across a front side wall 28B and a rear side wall 28C, which are two adjacent side walls of the second box 28 constituting the decontamination chamber R2. The upper guide rail 38 includes a top plate part 38A fixed to four (only three are shown in Figs. 10) brackets 40 fixed to the two side walls 28B and 28C, a pair of vertical plate parts 38B, 38B extending downward from both ends in the width direction of the top plate part 38A, and a pair of horizontal plate parts 38C, 38C that respectively extend from lower ends of the pair of vertical plate parts 38B, 38B to close to each other. A pair of moving bodies 41, 41 are movably provided inside the upper guide rail 38, and have an upper end of the second cover 37 connected thereto. Each of the moving bodies 41 includes a pair of bearings 43, 43 that are mounted on the pair of horizontal plate parts 38C, 38C and coupled to each other through lateral shafts 42, a spacing member 44 for holding a space between the bearings 43, 43 and having the lateral shafts 42 extending therethrough, and a pin 45 that is attached to the the spacing member 44 while extending therethrough movably around a vertical axis. An upper frame body 46 having a reversed L-shape, which is fixed to an upper end of the second cover 37 with screws, is fastened and fixed to the spacing member 44 by the pin 45. Accordingly, the second cover 37 is configured to be able to smoothly change its moving direction without deflecting during moving through a curved portion of the upper guide rail 38 since the second cover 37 can smoothly move along the upper guide rail 38 by the rotation of the pair of bearings 43, 43, while rotating around the axis of the pin 45. The lower guide rail 39 has a substantially U-shape with its upper end opening, and a pair of left and right rollers 47, 47, which are rotatable around the vertical axis, are provided within the lower guide rail 39. The pair of left and right rollers 47, 47 are coupled, rotatably around the vertical axis, to a lower frame body 48 that has a L-shape and is fixed to a lower end of the second cover 37 with screws. Accordingly, the second cover 37 is configured to be able to smoothly change its moving direction without deflecting during moving through a curved portion of the lower guide rail 39 since the second cover 37 can smoothly move along the lower guide rail 39 by the rotation of the pair of left and right rollers 47, 47.

[0040] The numeral 49 shown in Fig. 9 represents a stopper member, to which the second cover 37 abuts when it is located at the closing position, and the numeral 50 represents a stopper member, to which the second cover 37 abuts when it is located at the opening position.

[0041] The culture vessel 1, the centrifuge tube 17, the preparation tank 18 and the like, which are various kinds of containers for use in the isolator 3, are placed in the pass box 4 on the left side, then housed in a first tray 29 shown in Fig. 11A and Fig. 11B, and then the first tray 29 is carried into the isolator 3 through the carrying-in device 31. The first tray 29 is constituted by a housing body 29A of a box type having a rectangular shape in planner view with its upper side opening, a detachable partitioning plate 29B that is configured to house various kinds of containers while positioning them within the housing body 29A, and pairs of front and rear rotating rollers 29C, 29C and 29D, 29D that are mounted at both ends in the front-rear direction (carrying-in direction) of the housing body 29A with a certain interval in the width direction. The partitioning plate 29B can be configured to be detachably attached to the housing body 29A not only using a bolt but also by a locking structure. Specifically, in Fig. 11A, one centrifuge tube 17, one waste solution tank 32, two culture vessels 1, 1, one PBS (phosphate buffered saline) solution tank 33 are housed. Holes matching in shape with these various kinds of containers (holes capable of receiving various kinds of containers and positioning the same) are formed in the partitioning plate 29B. In Fig. 11B, one centrifuge tube 17, one waste solution tank 32, and two culture vessels 1, 1 are housed. Holes matching in shape with these various kinds of containers (holes capable of receiving various kinds of containers and positioning the same) are formed in the partitioning plate 29B. The first tray 29 of Fig. 11A and the first tray 29 of Fig. 11B have the same configuration for the housing body 29A, the pairs of the front and rear rotating rollers 29C, 29C, and 29D, 29D, while having a slight difference in shape of those holes formed in the portioning plate 29B. The first trays 29 are carried into the isolator 3 from the pass box 4 on the left side. A second tray 30 to be carried from the pass box 4 on the right side is smaller in width than the first tray 29 to be carried from the pass box 4 on the left side into the isolator 3 (Fig. 15 shows the second tray 30), and houses containers, which mainly have a smaller size than the containers housed in the first tray 29. The second tray 30 houses, for example, a cell counter, a microplate, a pipette tip, and the like.

[0042] The carrying-in device 31 includes a first carrying-in unit 51 installed in the pass box 4 on the left side shown in Fig. 12A and Fig 12B, and a second carrying-in unit 52 installed in the pass box 4 on the right side shown in Fig. 13A and Fig. 13B. These two carrying-in units 51 and 52 differ from each other only in that they are configured to have widths adjusted to the widths of the two kinds of trays 29 and 30 having different widths, while basically having the same configuration. As shown in Fig. 12A and Fig. 12B, the first carrying-in unit 51 includes a first movable member 53 that can move the first tray 29, which is placed on the first movable member 53 in the pass box 2, toward the isolator 3 side, and a first support member 54 that movably supports the first movable member 53.

[0043] The first movable member 53 includes a first mounting member 53A that is a plate like member having a rectangular shape in planner view and allows substantially all the area of the first tray 29 excepting a rear end part to be mounted thereon, and a first interlocking member 53B that is a plate like member having a rectangular shape in planner view extending from one end of the first mounting member 53A, allows the rear end part of the first tray 29 to be mounted thereon, and is interlocked with the first support member 54 side. The first mounting member 53A and the first interlocking member 53B respectively have a large number of holes 53a and a large number of holes 53b, through which air flows pass. The first interlocking member 53B is configured to have a width slightly larger than the width of the first mounting member 53A. Further, provided at a portion of the first interlocking member 53B close to the first mounting member 53A side is a a first vertical plate 53C that is provided upstanding to abut a rear end in the carrying-in direction of the first tray 29 to block the movement of the first tray 29 rearward in the carrying-in direction of the first tray 29. A first handle 53D is attached to an upper upper part of a rear surface in the front-rear direction (carrying-in direction) of the the first vertical plate 53C. A plate 55 is arranged at a position just beneath the first movable member 53 when the first movable member 53 has moved into the isolator 3, and has a large number of holes 55A through which air flows pass.

[0044] The first support member 54 includes a pair of first side plates 54A, 54A provided upstanding with an interval therebetween in the left-right direction (width direction) on a base plate 56 of the pass box 4, an L-shaped first cover member 54B that is configured to cover an area including a rear half in the front-rear direction of an upper side between the first side plates 54A, 54A and a rear end in the front-rear direction between the first side plates 54A, 54A, a pair of rod-shaped first guide members 54C, 54C that are supported at a certain height from the base plate 56 of the pass box 4 and arranged with a certain interval therebetween in the left-right direction, and a pair of left and right first rotating rollers 54D, 54D that contact a lower surface of the first movable member 53 to support the same during its movement. First tubular bodies 53E, 53E, through which the pair of first guide members 54C, 54C extend so as to be movable therealong, are connected to a lower surface of a rear end part in the front-rear direction of the first movable member 53. The first side plates 54A, 54A and the first cover member 54B respectively have a large number of holes 54a and a large number of holes 54b, through which air flows pass.

[0045] As shown in Fig. 13A and Fig. 13B, the second carrying-in unit 52 also includes a second movable member 57 that can move the second tray 30 (see Fig. 15), which is placed on the second movable member 57 in the pass box 4, toward the isolator 3 side, and a second support member 58 that movably supports the second movable member 57.

[0046] The second movable member 57 includes a second mounting member 57A that is a plate like member having a rectangular shape in planner view and allows substantially all the area of the second tray 30 excepting a rear end part to be mounted thereon, and a second interlocking member 57B that is a plate like member having a rectangular shape in planner view extending from one end of the second mounting member 57A, allows the rear end part of the second tray 30 to be mounted thereon, and is interlocked with the second support member 58 side. The second mounting member 57A and the second interlocking member 57B respectively have a large number of holes 57a and a large number of holes 57b, through which air flows pass. The second interlocking member 57B is configured to have a width in the left-right direction slightly larger than the second mounting member 57A. Further, provided at a portion of the second interlocking member 57B close to the second mounting member 57A side is a second vertical plate 57C that is provided upstanding to abut a rear end in the front-rear direction of the second tray 30 to block the movement of the second tray 30 rearward in the front-rear direction of the second tray 30. A second handle 57D is attached to an upper part of a rear surface in the front-rear direction of the second vertical plate 57C. A plate 59 is arranged at a portion just beneath the second movable member 57 when the second movable member 57 has moved into the isolator 3, and has a large number of holes 59A (see Fig. 14A) through which air flows pass.

[0047] The second support member 58 includes a pair of left and right second side plates 58A, 58A provided upstanding with an interval therebetween in the left-right direction (width direction) on the base plate 56 of the pass box 4, an L-shaped second cover member 58B that is configured to cover an area including a rear half in the front-rear direction of an upper side between the second side plates 58A, 58A and a rear end in the carrying-in direction between the second side plates 58A, 58A, a pair of rod-shaped second guide members 58C, 58C that are supported at a certain height from the base plate 56 of the pass box 4 and arranged with a certain interval therebetween in the left-right direction, and a pair of left and right second rotating rollers 58D, 58D that contact a lower suface of the second movable member 57 to support the same during movement of the second movable member 57. Second tubular bodies 57E, 57E, through which the pair of second guide members 58C, 58C extend so as to be movable therealong, are connected to a lower surface of a rear end part in the front-rear direction of the second movable member 57. The second side plates 58A, 58A and the second cover member 58B respectively have a large number of holes 58a and a large number of holes 58b, through which air flows pass.

[0048] For example, when the first movable member 57 configured as above is to be moved into the isolator 3, the operator grabs the first handle 57D through a given one of the glove ports G1 and G2 and pulls the same manually toward the isolator 3 side to move the first movable member 57. Fig. 13A and Fig. 13B show the state where the second movable member 57 has been moved to the isolator 3 side. At this time, as described above, the second tubular bodies 57E, 57E are moved while being guided by the pair of left and right second guide members 58C, 58C, with the lower surface of the second movable member 57 being supported by the pair of left and right second rotating rollers 58D, 58D, so that the second movable member 57 is smoothly moved toward the isolator 3 side while maintaining the horizontal direction thereof. Although the second cover 37 is not shown in Fig. 12A, Fig. 12B, Fig. 13A, and Fig. 13B, the operator grabs the handle 37H of the second cover 37 to thereby slide the second cover 37 in the lateral direction to the opening position in an actual operation, so that the first movable member 53 or the second movable member 57 can be moved through the thus opened isolator opening 3.

[0049] As shown in Fig. 11A and Fig. 11B, it is possible to efficiently house the containers in the tray by housing a plural kinds of containers in a tray (the first tray 29 in Figures). As a result, it is possible to reduce the number of times that the containers are carried into the isolator 3, and shorten the time for carrying in the containers corresponding to such reduction. In addition, it is possible to suppress contamination inside of the isolator 3 due to the large amount of air entering the isolator 3 from the pass box 4, because the tray can be instantly carried into the isolator 3 through the small isolator opening 37A, which is opened with the second cover 37 moved to the opening position.

[0050] The thus configured isolator 3 includes guide units 60, 60 located therein, which are configured to move the first tray 29 or the second tray 30 which have been carried into the isolator 3 by the first movable member 53 or the second tray 30 while guiding them in a direction (left-right direction) orthogonal to (or crossing) the carrying-in direction (front-rear directions). As shown in Fig. 14A, Fig. 14B, and Fig. 15, each of the guide units 60, 60 is constituted by a pair of front-rear rod shaped members 61 and 62 that extend in the left-right direction with an interval therebetween in the front-rear direction in the isolator 3, and the pairs of left and right rotating rollers 29C, 29C and 29D, 29D (see Fig. 11A) at the front and rear ends fo the first tray 29 or the pair of rotating rollers 30C, 30C and 30D, 30D (see Fig. 15) at the front and rear ends of the the second tray 30 in order to engage with the pair of front-rear rod shaped members 61 and 62. The space, in which these guide units 60, 60 are provided, is configured to form the space, in which the five first trays 29 and the five second trays 30 are arranged (that is, the space for arranging a plurality of containers therein). By arranging the five first trays 29 and the five second trays 30 in this space, all the containers can be arranged in the space so that the positions and postures of all the containers to be arranged in the space are matched with the predetermined positions and postures. The trays 29 and 30 are carried into the isolator 3, while taking into account the order in which they are carried thereinto from the pass boxes 4, 4, so that the trays 29 and 30 are respectively located at or matched with the predetermined positions.

[0051] The rod shaped member 61 on the front side is formed by a single rod-shaped member extending in the left-right direction from a portion corresponding to the isolator opening 37A so that when, for example, the first tray 29 is carried into the isolator 3 by the first carrying-in unit 51, the rod shaped member 61 can engage with the pair of left and right rotating rollers 29C, 29C at the front end of the first tray 29. A portion corrersponding to the isolator opening 37A of the rod shaped member 62 on the rear side is omitted so that when, for example, the first tray 29 is carried into the isolator 3 by the first carrying-in unit 51, the rod shaped member 62 on the rear side allows passing of the first tray 29. The rod shaped member 62 on the rear side is constituted by a left-side rod shaped member 62A extending from a portion in proximity to the left end of the isolator opening 37A toward the left side, and a right-side rod shaped member 62B extending from a portion in proximity to the right end of the isolator opening 37A toward the right side. Accordingly, in Fig. 15, when the second tray 30 is carried into the isolator 3 from the pass box 4 on the right side, the pair of left and right rotating rollers 30C, 30C at the front end of the second tray 30 come into engagement with the rod shaped member 61 on the front side from above. In this engaging state, the second robot arm 12 holds the second tray 30 and moves the same toward one side in the left-right direction to thereby allow the pair of left and right rotating rollers 30D, 30D at the rear end of the second tray 30 to come into engagement with the the rod shaped member 62A on the rear left side or the rod shaped member 62B on the rear right side. Whereby, the second tray 30 can be smoothly moved to a certain position in the left-right direction while the rotating rollers 30C, 30C and 30D, 30D at the front and rear ends are being rotated along the rod shaped members 61 and 62 on the front and rear sides. When the second tray 30 is to be moved to a far position from the isolator opening 37A, for example, to the left end, the second tray 30 can be moved thereto by being transferred from the second robot arm 12 at the right end to the second robot arm 11 at the center. Fig. 15 shows the state where the first trays 29 are sequentially carried into the isolator 3 from the pass box 4 on the left side, and five first trays 29 in total (in this embodiment, five trays are provided, but two or more arbitrary numbers of trays may be provided) are arranged in certain positions in the left-right direction. As described above, by aligning the five trays 29 in the order predetermined reltive to the left-right direction, all the containers can be arranged in the space so that the positions and postures of all the containers are matched with the predetermined positions and postures. Thus, each of the robot arms 10, 11, and 12 can surely recognize the container to be selected based on the command from the control device X, and instantly hold the same. The containers in the trays are not shown in Fig. 15, but two examples of containers arrangement are shown in Fig. 11A and Fig. 11B. The second trays 30 from the pass box 4 on the right side can be also arranged with five second trays 30 being aligned in the left-right direction. The rod shaped member 61 on the front side has a pair of grooves 61M at five places with the same pitch as the rotating rollers. The rod shaped member 62 on the rear side has a pair of grooves 62M at four places with the same pitch as the rotating rollers. The rotating rollers 29C, 29C or 30C, 30C fit into the front grooves 61M, and the rotating rollers 29D, 29D or 30D, 30D fit into the rear grooves 62M, so that each of the first trays 29 and each of the second trays 30 can be positioned while not being unintentionally moved in the left-right direction. Fig. 15 shows the five first trays 29 respectively fitting into the grooves 61M and 62M. In this arrangement, no rod shaped members are provided on the rear side for the first tray 29 and the second tray 30 positioned at the center, which corresponds to the isolator opening 37A, and therefore the rotating rollers 29D, 29D and 30D, 30D on the rear side cannot fit into the grooves. The pair of grooves 61M, 61M on the front side formed at the center thus have a depth larger than the remaining four pairs of grooves 61M, 61M so as to increase the fitting engagement force to surely prevent unintentional movement of the trays in the left-right direction. In Fig. 15, the containers and the partitioning plates to be housed in the first tray 29 and the second tray 30 are omitted.

[0052] As aforementioned, the predetermined containers are housed while being positioned in the first tray 29 (see Fig. 11A and Fig. 1B), and before being carried into the isolator 3 by the first carrying-in unit 51, the containers in the first tray 29 are subjected to be determination of correctness of the containers in the pass box 4 by a container correct-incorrect determining apparatus 63 which notifies a worker as the operator (third person) of the determination result. The same applies to the second tray 30, and thus only the configuration on the first tray 29 side will be herein described. The containers are not containers that are modified to be easily gripped by the robot arm, but commercially available containers.

[0053]  The container correct/incorrect determining apparatus 63 is configured to determine whether necessary containers are correctly or incorrectly housed in the first container 29 and whether positions (housing positions) of the first tray 29 in which the containers are housed are matched with the prestored position (housing position) of the first tray 29. It is further configured to determine whether the postures (housing postures) of the containers relative to the first tray 29 are matched with the prestored housing postures (facing directions) of the containers relative to the first tray 29.

[0054] Specifically, as shown in Fig. 17, the container correct/incorrect determining apparatus 63 includes a storage device 64 configured to prestore the positions and specific postures (facing directions) of the containers relative to the first tray 29, an imaging device 65 configured to image the containers arranged in the first tray 29 (shown also in Fig. 16), a determining device 66 configured to determine whether the positions and postures of the containers relative to the first tray 29 that have been stored in the storage device 64 are matched with the positions and postures of the containers relative to the first tray 29 that has been imaged by the imaging device 65, a fixed signal output device 67 configured to output a fixed signal to the second robot arm 10 or 11 so that the second robot arm 10 or 11 fixes the first tray 29 within the isolator 3 after the isolator opening 37A is opened and the first tray 29 is carried into the isolator 3 therethrough by the first movable member 53 in the case where the determining device 66 determines that they are matched with each other, and a permission signal output device 68 configured to output a permission signal to permit the first movable member 53 to be withdrawn to the pass box 4 side after the second robot arm 10 or 11 fixes the first tray 29 using the fixed signal output device 67.

[0055] Fig. 16 shows the state where a camera, which is the imaging device 65 installed in the pass box, is imaging the containers housed in the first tray 29 directly therebeneath. The positions and postures of the containers shown, for example, in Fig. 11A are prestored in the storage device 64 as the correct positions and postures. Relative to this, the containers housed as shown in Fig. 18 are imaged by the camera, and then the imaged positions and postures of the imaged containers are compared with the positions and postures of the containers stored in the storage device 64. In comparison, the stored containers include one centrifuge tube 17, one waiste liquid tank 32, two culture vessels 1, 1, and one PBS solution tank 33 as shown in Fig. 11A while the imaged containers include one centrifuge tube 17, one waste liquid tank 32, two culture vessels 1, 1, and one PBS solution tank 33, and although the number and positions of the stored containers correspond to those of the imaged containers, the two culture vessels 1, 1 have different postures (facing direction) between Fig. 11A and Fig. 18. That is, caps 1A, 1A of the culture vessels 1, 1 are both positioned on upper sides of the same in Fig. 18, which are not matched with each other. If the first tray 29 is carried into the isolator 3 in the state of Fig. 18, the second robot arm 10 or 11 fails to recognize the two culture vessels 1, 1. As a result, the second robot arm 10 or 11 cannot grab the two culture vessels 1, 1.

[0056] Accordingly, if the containers in the first tray 29 are imaged in the pass box 4 and the determining device 66 determines whether the positions and postures of the imaged containers are matched with the positions and postures of the containers stored in the storage device 64, and determines that they are not matched with each other, a worker as the operator (third person) will be notified by sounding a buzzer or blinking a lighting lump on a display. The worker checks the non-matched container(s) on a monitor or the like, and corrects the postures (facing directions) of the two culture vessels 1, 1 in Fig. 18 to be matched with the postures (facing directions) of the two culture vessels 1 in Fig. 11A. After the correction, the containers are imaged again, and the determining device 66, if determining the matching, outputs an OK signal, which is displayed on a monitor or the like. Thereby, the worker presses a switch (not shown), after the isolator opening 37A is opened and the first tray 29 is transferred into the isolator 3 therethrough by the first movable member 53, so that it is confirmed that the first tray 29 has been moved into the isolator 3 and the fixed signal is output from the fixed signal output device 67 to the second robot arm 10 or 11. (the configuration can also be such that a sensor or the like is used to detect that the first tray 29 has been moved into the isolator 3 and the fixed signal is output from the fixed signal output device 67 to the second robot arm 10 or 11.) When the fixed signal is output, the second robot arm 10 or 11 fixes the first tray 29 within the isolator 3. This configuration eliminates the necessity of providing a special mechanism for fixing the first tray 29, which can suppress an increase in size of the apparatus. After the second robot arm 10 or 11 has fixed the first tray 29 within the isolator 3, the permission signal is output from the permission signal output device 68 to permit the worker to withdraw the first movable member 53 to the pass box 4 side, so that the first movable member 53 can be accurately withdrawn to the pass box 4 side. After the first movable member 53 is withdrawn to the pass box 4 side, the isolator opening 37A is closed to be prepared for carrying the next first tray 29 into the isolator 3. The same applies to the pass box 4 on the right side, and thus the description thereof will be omitted.

[0057] Each of the isolator opening 37A and the decontamination chamber opening 35A has such a height as to allow a container having a largest dimension (herein HYPERFlask manufactured by Corning Incorporated) capable of culturing cells to pass therethrough. It is preferable that the isolator opening 37A and the decontamination chamber opening 35A have a width in the left-right direction being slightly larger than the width in the left-right direction of the first tray 29 and the second tray 30, so that the first tray 29 and the second tray 30 can be passed therethrough. The opening 34K of the clean bench chamber R1 also has such a height as to allow a container having a largest dimension (herein HYPERFlask manufactured by Corning Incorporated) capable of culturing cells to pass therethrough. Such height setting enables the size of each opening to be minimized and air flows to be desirably controlled, while enabling all the kinds of handled container to be carried into the respective chambers. As a result, it is possible to further avoid occurrence of troubles such as contamination within the isolator 3.

[0058] The cell treatment apparatus according to the present invention is not limited to the aforementioned embodiment, and various modifications can be made without departing from the gist of the present invention.

[0059] The aforementioned embodiment was described by taking, for example, the case where the two robot arms 6 and 7 are provided in the observation section 8, and the three robot arms 10, 11, and 12 are provided in the processing section 13. However, the configuration can also be such that at least one robot arm is provided in the observation section 8 and at least one robot arm is provided in the processing section 13.

[0060] In the aforementioned embodiment, the isolator 3 is configured to have a horizontally elongated shape, but may be configured to have a square shape or a circular shape. Further, it may be configured to have a bent shape.

[0061] The aforementioned embodiment was described by taking, for example, the case where the first cover 35 is configured to be movable in the vertical direction and the second cover 37 is configured to be movable in the lateral direction; however, the moving direction of each of the first cover 35 and the second cover 37 may be set to any direction.

[0062] The description of the aforementioned embodiment was made for the apparatus to produce cultured cell products, which is configured to culture cells and subdivide cultured cells into products; however, it can be made also for an apparatus to culture cells, which is configured to perform only cell culturing, or for a product manufacturing apparatus, which is configured to subdivide cultured cells into products.

[0063] The aforementioned embodiment was described by taking, for example, the case where the two pass boxes 4, 4 are provided; however, it can be described also by taking the case where one pass box, or three or more pass boxes are provided.

[0064] The aforementioned embodiment was described by taking, for example, the case where each of the trays 29 and 30 have a rectangular shape in planner view; however, the trays 29 and 30 may have any shape, such as a square shape, a polygonal shape, a circular shape or an elliptical shape.

[0065] The aforementioned embodiment was described by taking, for example, the case where the tray 29 is imaged from directly above by a camera as an imaging device; however, the angle of imaging can be freely changed in view of, for example, reflected light.

[0066] The aforementioned embodiment was described by taking, for example, the case where the movable members 53 and 57 are configured to be manually movable. However, the configuration can also be such that the movable members 53 and 57 are moved using various actuators such as an electric motor or a fluid pressure actuated cylinder.

[0067] The aforementioned embodiment was described by taking, for example, the case the partitioning plate is configured to be freely detachable relative to the housing body. However, the configuration can also be such that the partitioning plate is of the non-detachable fixed type, that is, of such a type that the partitioning plate is fixed to the housing body by welding or adhesive bonding in non-detachablymanner.

[0068] The aforementioned embodiment was described by taking, for example, the case where a plurality of containers are housed while being positioned in the tray, and the tray in which the plurality of containers are housed is carried into the isolator so that the positions and postures of the plurality of containers are matched with those as desired at one time. However, the configuration can also be such that, while the containers are not housed in the tray, but they are carried into the isolator one by one, and they are arranged manually or a robot while each container is aligned with a desired position and posture,

[0069] The aforementioned embodiment was described by taking, for example, the case where all the containers are arranged in the space to have their positions and postures matched with the predetermined positions and postures. However, the configuration can also be such that all the containers are arranged in the space to have their positions matched with the predetermined positions. In this case, the robot arm cannot recognize the postures of the containers only by the positional information of the containers. Therefore, it may be configured so that the robot arm can grip a container by selecting, as the posture of a container required for allowing the robot arm to grip the container, the posture of the same container from among the prestored postures of a large number of containers, or the robot arm can grip a container by providing the robot arm with an imaging device to recognize the posture of the container imaged by the imaging device.

[0070] The configuration and action of the aforementioned embodiment will be summarized below. The cell treatment apparatus according to the embodiment includes: a treatment chamber that has an inner space maintained in aseptic conditions and is configured to secure in the inner space a space for arranging therein a plurality of containers for use in treatment of cells; and gripping mechanisms 10, 11, and 12 that are arranged in the treatment chamber and are configured to grip the plurality of containers arranged in the space, wherein the plurality of containers are configured to be capable of being arranged in the space so as to have their positions matched with predetermined positions of the plurality of containers so that the gripping mechanism 10, 11, and 12 can grip a container to be selected based on a command from among the plurality of containers.

[0071] According to the above configuration, the plurality of containers are arranged to be located at or matched with the predetermined positions of the plurality of containers in the space of the treatment chamber, thereby the gripping mechanisms 10, 11, and 12 can recognize the positions of the plurality of containers. Accordingly, the gripping mechanisms 10, 11, and 12 can instantly and securely grip the plurality of containers so that the treatments for cell culturing can be performed.

[0072] Further, it may be configured so that the cell treatment apparatus according to the embodiment includes at least one tray 29 that houses the plurality of containers while positioning them therein, wherein the treatment chamber includes an isolator 3 that has the space for treating cells therein, and a pass box 4 that includes a carrying-in unit 51 to carry the tray 29 into the isolator 3, wherein the plurality of containers are arranged at predetermined positions in the space by arranging in the space the at least one tray 29, which has the plurality of containers housed therein, and wherein the gripping mechanisms 10, 11, and 12 are arranged in the isolator.

[0073] According to the above configuration, it is possible to match the position relative to the tray 29 with the desirable positions only by housing the containers in the tray 29. It is possible to match the positions of the plurality of containers with the predetermined positions at one time only by carrying the tray 29 in the aforementioned housing state into the isolator 3 by the carrying-in unit 51 and arranging the tray 29 in the space inside the isolator 3.

[0074] Further, the cell treatment apparatus according to the embodiment may be configured so that the tray 29 includes a housing body 29A that has an upwardly opening box shape, and a partitioning plate 29B that is attachable to and detachable from the housing body so that the containers are housed in the housing body while being positioned therein.

[0075] According to the above configuration, the partitioning plate 29B is attachable to and detachable from the housing body 29A; thus, it is possible to change the containers to be housed only by replacing the partitioning plate 29B with a different partitioning plate.

[0076] Further, the cell treatment apparatus according to the embodiment may be configured so that the carrying-in unit 51 includes a movable member 53 that can move the tray 29, which is placed thereon in the pass box 4, into the isolator 3, and a guide unit 60 that is located in the isolator 3 to guide the tray 29, which is carried into the isolator 3 by the movable member 53, in a direction crossing a carrying-in direction.

[0077] According to the above configuration, the tray 29, which has been carried by the movable member 53 from the pass box 4 into the isolator 3, can be guided by the guide unit 60 in the direction crossing the carrying-in direction, and thereby positions of the plurality of containers can be matched with the predetermined positions.

[0078] Further, it may be configured so that the cell treatment apparatus according to the embodiment includes: an imaging device that is configured to image the containers arranged in the tray 29 in the pass box 4; a storage device 64 that is configured to prestore positions of the containers relative to the tray 29; and a determining device 66 that is configured to determine whether the positions of the containers relative to the tray 29 stored by the storage device 64 are matched with positions of the containers relative to the tray 29 that has been imaged by the imaging device 65, wherein, when the determining device 66 determines that they are matched with each other, the tray 29 is carried into the isolator 3 by the movable member 53, and the gripping mechanism 10, 11, or 12 moves the tray, which has been carried into the isolator 3, in a direction crossing a carrying-in direction so that the plurality of containers are located at or matched with the predetermined positions.

[0079] According to the above configuration, when the determining device 66 determines that they do not match, it is possible to correct the position of a container relative to the tray 29 in the pass box 4 before being carried into the isolator 3. When the tray 29 in which the containers with their positions corrected are housed is carried into the isolator 3 by the movable member 53, the gripping mechanism 10, 11, or 12 moves the tray 29 in the direction crossing the carrying-in direction. This makes it unnecessary to provide a dedicated moving mechanism and thus can suppress enlargement of the size of the apparatus itself. Moreover, after the tray 29 has been transferred by the gripping mechanism 10, 11, or 12, the positions of the plurality of containers are located at or matched with the predetermined positions. This eliminates the necessity to correct the positions of the tray.

[0080] As described above, in the embodiment, it is possible to provide a cell treatment apparatus that can efficiently treat many cell culturing processes, because a plurality of containers are located in a space to have their positions matched with the predetermined positions so that the gripping mechanisms 10, 11 can instantly and securely grip the plurality of containers.

REFERENCE SIGNS LIST



[0081] 

1: Culture vessel

2: Incubator

2A: Casing

2B, 2C: Door

3: Isolator

4: Pass box

5: Mounting table

6, 7: First robot arm

6A: Fixed part

6B: Base part

6C: First arm

6D: Second arm

6E: Third arm

6F: Grip

8: Observation section

9: Product container

10, 11, 12: Second robot arm

13: Processing section

14: Outlet

15: Base member

16: Microscope

17: Centrifuge tube

18: Preparation tank

18A: Cap

19: Conveying apparatus

20: Auxiliary arm

20A: Fixed part

20B: Grip

21: Fixing member

22: Box

23: Large-size waste disposal part

24: Small-size waste disposal part

25: Microscope

26: Centrifuge

27: First box

28: Second box

28A, 28B, 28C: Side wall

29: First tray

29A: Housing body

29B: Partitioning plate

29C, 29D, 30C, 30D: Rotating roller

30: Second tray

31: Carrying-in device

32: Waste solution tank

33: PBS solution tank

34: Shutter

34K: Opening

35: First cover

35A: Decontamination chamber opening

36: Air cylinder

36A: Piston rod

36B: Cylinder tube

37: Second cover

37A: Isolator opening

37H: Handle

38, 39: Guide rail

38A: Top plate part

38B: Vertical plate part

38C: Horizontal plate part

40: Bracket

41: Moving body

42: Lateral shaft

43: Bearing

44: Spacing member

45: Pin

46: Upper frame body

47: Roller

48: Lower frame body

49, 50: Stopper member

51: First carrying-in unit

52: Second carrying-in unit

53: First movable member

53A: First mounting member

53B: First interlocking member

53C: First vertical plate

53D: First handle

53E: First tubular body

53a, 53b: Hole

54: First support member

54A: First side plate

54B: First cover member

54C: First guide member

54D: First rotating roller

54a, 54b: Hole

55: Plate

56: Base plate

57: Second movable member

57A: Second mounting member

57B: Second interlocking member

57C: Second vertical plate

57D: Second handle

57E: Second tubular body

57a, 57b: Hole

58: Second support member

58A: Second side plate

58B: Second cover member

58C: Second guide member

58D: Second rotating roller

58a, 58b: Hole

59: Plate

60: Guide unit

61, 62: Rod shaped member

62A: Left-side rod shaped member

62B: Right-side rod shaped member

63: Correct/incorrect determining apparatus

64: Storage device

65: Imaging device

66: Determining device

67: Fixed signal output device

68: Permission signal output device

G1, G2: Glove port

R2: Decontamination chamber

X: Control device




Claims

1. A cell treatment apparatus comprising:

a treatment chamber that has an inner space maintained in aseptic conditions and is configured to secure in the inner space a space for arranging therein a plurality of containers for use in treatment of cells; and

a gripping mechanism that is arranged in the treatment chamber and is configured to grip the plurality of containers arranged in the space,

wherein the plurality of containers are configured to be capable of being arranged in the space so as to have their positions matched with predetermined positions of the plurality of containers so that the gripping mechanism can grip a container to be selected based on a command from among the plurality of containers.


 
2. The cell treatment apparatus according to claim 1, further comprising at least one tray that houses the plurality of containers while positioning them therein,
wherein the treatment chamber includes an isolator that has the space for treating cells therein, and a pass box that includes a carrying-in unit to carry the tray into the isolator,
wherein the plurality of containers are arranged at predetermined positions in the space by arranging in the space the at least one tray, which has the plurality of containers housed therein, and
wherein the gripping mechanism is arranged in the isolator.
 
3. The cell treatment apparatus according to claim 2,
wherein the tray includes a housing body that has an upwardly opening box shape, and a partitioning plate that is attachable to and detachable from the housing body so that the containers are housed in the housing body while being positioned therein.
 
4. The cell treatment apparatus according to claim 2 or 3,
wherein the carrying-in unit includes a movable member that can move the tray, which is placed thereon in the pass box, into the isolator, and a guide unit that is located in the isolator to guide the tray, which is carried into the isolator by the movable member, in a direction crossing a carrying-in direction.
 
5. The cell treatment apparatus according to claim 4, further comprising: an imaging device that is configured to image the containers arranged in the tray in the pass box; a storage device that is configured to prestore positions of the containers relative to the tray; and a determining device that is configured to determine whether the positions of the containers relative to the tray stored by the storage device are matched with positions of the containers relative to the tray that has been imaged by the imaging device,
wherein, when the determining device determines that they are matched with each other, the tray is carried into the isolator by the movable member, and the gripping mechanism moves the tray, which has been carried into the isolator, in a direction crossing a carrying-in direction so that the plurality of containers are located at the predetermined positions.
 




Drawing












































































REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

Patent documents cited in the description