Stem cell proliferation and differentiation observed within hydrogel

Apr 11, 2013

Stem cells can be coaxed to grow into new bone or new cartilage better and faster when given the right molecular cues and room inside a water-loving gel, researchers at Case Western Reserve University show.

By creating a three-dimensional checkerboard—one with alternating highly connected and less connected spaces within the —the team found adjusting the size of the micropattern could affect stem cell behaviors, such as proliferation and differentiation.

Inducing how and where grow—and into the right kind of cell in —has proven a challenge to creating useful stem cell therapies. This technique holds promise for studying how physical, chemical and other influences affect cell behavior in three-dimensions, and, ultimately, as a method to grow tissues for regenerative medicine applications.

"We think that control over local biomaterial properties may allow us to guide the formation of complex tissues," said Eben Alsberg, an associate professor of Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve. "With this system, we can regulate and cell-specific differentiation into, for example, bone-like or cartilage-like cells."

Oju Jeon, PhD, a in Biomedical Engineering, pursued this work with Alsberg. Their work is described April 11, 2013 in the online edition of Advanced Functional Materials.

Hydrogels are hydrophilic three-dimensional networks of water-soluble polymers bonded, or crosslinked, to one another. Crosslinks increase rigidity and alter the inside the gel.

Alsberg and Jeon used a hydrogel of oxidized methacrylated alginate and an 8-arm poly(ethylene glycol) amine. A chemical reaction between the alginate and the poly(ethylene glycol) creates crosslinks that provide structure within the gel.

They tweaked the mix so that a second set of crosslinks forms when exposed to light. They used checkerboard masks to create patterns of alternating singly and doubly crosslinked spaces.

The spaces, which varied in size at 25, 50, 100 and 200 micrometers across, were evenly singly and doubly crosslinked.

Human stem cells isolated from fat tissue were encapsulated in the singly and doubly crosslinked regions. The doubly-crosslinked spaces are comparatively cluttered with structures. The cells grew into clusters in the singly-crosslinked regions, but remained mostly isolated in the doubly crosslinked regions.

The larger the spaces in the checkerboard, the larger the clusters grew.

Cells were cultivated in media that promote differentiation into either bone or cartilage.

In both the singly and doubly crosslinked spaces, stem cells increasingly differentiated according to the media composition as the space size increased. The results were more dramatic in the singly-crosslinked spaces.

"Potentially, what's happening is the single-crosslinked regions allow better nutrient transport and provide more space for cells to interact and, because it's less restrictive, there's space for new cells and matrix production," Alsberg said. "Cluster formation, in turn, may influence proliferation and differentiation. Differences in mechanical properties between regions likely also regulate the cell behaviors."

The researchers are continuing to use micropatterning to understand the influences of biomaterials on stem cell fate decisions. This approach may permit local control over and, ultimately, allow the engineering of complex tissues comprised of multiple cell types using a single stem cell source.

Explore further: Proteins: New class of materials discovered

Related Stories

Engineering cartilage replacements

Dec 02, 2011

A lab discovery is a step toward implantable replacement cartilage, holding promise for knees, shoulders, ears and noses damaged by osteoarthritis, sports injuries and accidents.

Researchers show stem cell fate depends on 'grip'

Mar 28, 2013

The field of regenerative medicine holds great promise, propelled by greater understanding of how stem cells differentiate themselves into many of the body's different cell types. But clinical applications ...

Discovery could create retinas from 'Jell-O'

Aug 31, 2011

Researchers at the University of Toronto have developed a new method for creating 3D hydrogel scaffolds that will aid in the development of new tissue and organs grown in a lab.

Recommended for you

Proteins: New class of materials discovered

6 hours ago

Scientists at the Helmholtz Center Berlin along with researchers at China's Fudan University have characterized a new class of materials called protein crystalline frameworks.

The fluorescent fingerprint of plastics

Aug 21, 2014

LMU researchers have developed a new process which will greatly simplify the process of sorting plastics in recycling plants. The method enables automated identification of polymers, facilitating rapid separation ...

Water and sunlight the formula for sustainable fuel

Aug 21, 2014

An Australian National University (ANU) team has successfully replicated one of the crucial steps in photosynthesis, opening the way for biological systems powered by sunlight which could manufacture hydrogen ...

Researchers create engineered energy absorbing material

Aug 21, 2014

(Phys.org) —Materials like solid gels and porous foams are used for padding and cushioning, but each has its own advantages and limitations. Gels are effective as padding but are relatively heavy; gel performance ...

User comments : 0