Stem cells can be encouraged to sprout by changing the surface of the plastic growth substrate

May 18, 2017 by Lea Kivivali, Swinburne University of Technology

Controlling the patterning on the surface of plastics may soon enable us to grow bone, fight infections and reproduce stem cells, thanks to research at Swinburne.

Variations in the on the surface of a material can alter the development of cells in the vicinity according to the work of Swinburne's Polymer NanoInterface Engineering Group.

It opens potential for making minute changes to the plastic surface of cell cultures and medical devices in order to control how cells behave both inside and outside the body.

"Depending on the type of pattern and the type of cell, you get different responses. This means you have a starting point for controlling the cell pathway," says group leader, Professor Peter Kingshott.

Through their research, Professor Kingshott's team developed a new method to create patterns at the nanoscale, as existing methods were expensive and time-consuming, limiting their industrial application.

In collaboration with the CSIRO's manufacturing unit, Professor Kingshott's group worked on a technique based on the patterns left by crystal particles as a solution evaporates. Their method can be carried out in any laboratory, takes a few hours, rather than months, and is scalable to a practical size.

The Swinburne group also recently collaborated with the Stem Cells Australia network to develop a new, relatively cheap and time-efficient to regress mature cells to stem cell form.

A particular crystal was laid down on the polystyrene surface of cell incubating wells, which were filled with mature cells and a mixture of proteins known to trigger the transformation. In a matter of days, the attached to the surface of the well and were converted back to stem-cell form.

Previous methods of inducing this pluripotency have taken weeks and have required the insertion of a layer of a protein called vitronectin to achieve conversion.

By speeding up the process and removing a step, the Swinburne–Stem Cells Australia technique could lead to time and cost savings in what is quickly becoming a valuable medical field.

Kingshott says the same approach could determine the behaviour of .

"It doesn't necessarily have to be . It can be regenerating skin or regenerating bone."

Kingshott's group has also shown that different surface patterns can repel bacteria, pointing to useful applications in medical implants and devices.

If catheters and bandages can be manufactured to repel bacteria, the need for antibiotics could be reduced and the growing microbial resistance to antibacterials negated.

Professor Kingshott and his team are now working to determine why the different patterns affect cell behaviour.

Explore further: Researchers uncover new way of growing stem cells

Related Stories

New tools to study the origin of embryonic stem cells

March 23, 2017

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have identified cell surface markers specific for the very earliest stem cells in the human embryo. These cells are thought to possess great potential for replacing damaged tissue but ...

Squeezing cells into stem cells

January 11, 2016

EPFL scientists have developed a new method that turns cells into stem cells by "squeezing" them. The method paves the way for large-scale production of stem cells for medical purposes.

Sweet success for new stem cell ID trick

November 20, 2008

( -- Biomaterial scientists in Manchester believe they have found a new way of isolating the ‘ingredients’ needed for potential stem cell treatments for nerve damage and heart disease.

Recommended for you

Single-cell database to propel biological studies

April 20, 2018

A team at Whitehead Institute and MIT has harnessed single-cell technologies to analyze over 65,000 cells from the regenerative planarian flatworm, Schmidtea mediterranea, revealing the complete suite of actives genes (or ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.