Infoscience

Journal article

Perturbation of single hematopoietic stem cell fates in artificial niches

Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are capable of extensive self-renewal in vivo and are successfully employed clinically to treat hematopoietic malignancies, yet are in limited supply as in culture this self-renewal capacity is lost. Using an approach at the interface of stem cell biology and bioengineering, here we describe a novel platform of hydrogel microwell arrays for assessing the effects of either secreted or tethered proteins characteristic of the in vivo microenvironment, or niche, on HSC fate in vitro. Time-lapse microscopic analyses of single cells were crucial to overcoming inevitable heterogeneity of FACS-enriched HSCs. A reduction in proliferation kinetics or an increase in asynchronous division of single HSCs in microwells in response to specific proteins (Wnt3a and N-Cadherin) correlated well with subsequent serial long-term blood reconstitution in mice in vivo. Single cells that divided once in the presence of a given protein were capable of in vivo reconstitution, providing evidence of self-renewal divisions of HSCs in vitro. These results validate the hydrogel microwell platform as a broadly applicable paradigm for dissecting the regulatory role of specific signals within a complex stem cell niche.

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