Large-scale ex vivo expansion of human natural killer (NK) cells for adoptive immunotherapy requires assurance of good manufacturing practices. However, maximal expansion of NK is also desired to facilitate clinical trials with large numbers of IL-2-activated NK (ANK). A closed-system stirred-tank bioreactor is amenable to computer control of culture variables, thereby reducing the risk of contamination. We demonstrate that NK cultured in 250-ml spinner flasks expand 2.5-fold more than NK cultured in stationary tissue culture wells. We further show that during 33 days of culture, it is feasible to control the pH between 7.0 and 7.2 and the dissolved oxygen concentration at 40% of air saturation via direct on-line computer control in a 750-ml stirred-tank bioreactor. On-line measurement of optical density by a laser turbidity sensor, as a measure of cell concentration, correlated well with actual cell count data. NK expansion in the 750-ml bioreactor was 7-fold greater than in stationary tissue culture controls and 3-fold greater than in spinner flask controls. Consumption rates of glucose and oxygen and the production rate of lactate were measured and will be used to develop a nutrient feeding strategy to convert the batch reactor experiment into closed-system fed-batch or continuous flow modes. Computer-controlled stirred-tank bioreactors may facilitate clinical trials with high-purity ANK populations for adoptive immunotherapy.