Diffusion dynamics play an essential role in regulating stem cells and tissue development

July 26, 2017, Institute of Neural Regeneration & Tissue Engineering

Gradients of molecular signaling factors play an essential role in numerous events in embryonic development, from patterning limb and organ formation to the intricate shaping of the brain and neuroanatomical architecture. These gradients are a consequence of diffusion dynamics in tissues, and newly published work describes two vital aspects of these diffusion processes in tissue development—first, the influence of molecular diffusion gradients on stem cell signaling pathways is described in detail, including a summary of recent discoveries in how gas and nutrient concentrations can influence stem cell potency, differentiation, and metabolism. Secondly, the paper describes novel applications of diffusion equations to model concentration gradients of nutrients and signaling factors in three-dimensional (3D) tissue constructs under a variety of conditions, including with or without cellular metabolism of the diffusing substance.

With the recent advent of complex stem-cell-derived 3D constructs (e.g., organoids or mini-organs) in forming and modeling innate tissues and organ structures like the brain, and with recent discoveries that gas and nutrient concentrations can have a vast number of effects on stem cell state and function, a novel role of modeling will be immensely important to rigorous study of developmental processes, disease modeling, and regenerative medicine. This work provides several tools and resources that will enable researchers from many backgrounds to understand and model diffusion processes for their specific types of tissue constructs, including models for diffusion either into or out of the tissue, and for any type of diffusant molecule, biomaterial scaffold, and cell type.

Although many mechanisms of how self-organize at the proper place and time into mature tissues and organs still remain to be elucidated, it is clear that the architecture, composition, and function of numerous tissues is influenced by many overlapping diffusion signals during development, and this work helps open the door for many more complex and unique diffusion solutions to be explored and studied as they relate to developmental events.

"Understanding these mechanisms requires a synthesis of and mass transfer physics, where physical diffusion phenomena affect neurodevelopmental cues that define cell identities and ultimately help shape the cellular architecture of the brain," said Dr. Richard McMurtrey, the author of the work. "The dynamics of all this cross-talk are complex and still beyond our complete comprehension, but it is fascinating that the layout of the brain and all the processing of information that flows through it ultimately depend on numerous critical signaling events that organize these cellular systems early in development."

Explore further: Composite biomaterial scaffolds enable patterning of tissue architecture and cell identity

More information: Richard J. McMurtrey, Roles of Diffusion Dynamics in Stem Cell Signaling and Three-Dimensional Tissue Development, Stem Cells and Development (2017). DOI: 10.1089/scd.2017.0066

Related Stories

Self-organized nanopatterns in multicomponent systems

June 18, 2012

European researchers have studied a new class of self-organized nanostructures formed by the complex interdependence of chemical reactions and diffusion in multicomponent reacting systems. Project results have potential applications ...

Recommended for you

Meteorite source in asteroid belt not a single debris field

February 17, 2019

A new study published online in Meteoritics and Planetary Science finds that our most common meteorites, those known as L chondrites, come from at least two different debris fields in the asteroid belt. The belt contains ...

Diagnosing 'art acne' in Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings

February 17, 2019

Even Georgia O'Keeffe noticed the pin-sized blisters bubbling on the surface of her paintings. For decades, conservationists and scholars assumed these tiny protrusions were grains of sand, kicked up from the New Mexico desert ...

Archaeologists discover Incan tomb in Peru

February 16, 2019

Peruvian archaeologists discovered an Incan tomb in the north of the country where an elite member of the pre-Columbian empire was buried, one of the investigators announced Friday.

Where is the universe hiding its missing mass?

February 15, 2019

Astronomers have spent decades looking for something that sounds like it would be hard to miss: about a third of the "normal" matter in the Universe. New results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory may have helped them ...


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.