Infoscience

Student project

Muscle stem cell's in vitro bipolar niche

In the domain of regenerative medicine research there are many fronts aimed at increasing our understanding of induced pluripotent, embryonic and adult stem cells. Recently a new front has appeared, stem cell niches, the microenvironment that is a crucial component in the regulation of stem cells. New in vitro platforms are continually being created to answer the multitude of biological questions that surround stem cell niches. The transition from in vitro to in vivo is a heavy setback in cellular research due to a huge gap between the two conditions, which can only be reduced if the in vitro conditions better mimic those found in vivo. This project has reduced the gap and has the potential to continue minimizing the differences between the two conditions in the field of muscle stem cell research. Through a combination of the forefront techniques in biological research, we were able to create a new innovative bioengineered platform, a bipolar hydrogel microenvironment. First, we took advantage of polyethylene glycol (PEG) hydrogels, which are highly hydrophilic polymer networks that have properties that mimic physiologic tissue, including high water content and low Young's Modulus. Microfabrication techniques allowed us to topographically pattern the hydrogel at micro-dimensions resembling the native cell environment. Utilizing microfluidics and micro-printing techniques, the three-dimensional hydrogel surface was also patterned with tethered niche proteins found in the in vivo muscle stem cell niche. The swelling properties of the PEG hydrogel were considered as an advantage and controlled to form niche gaps with physical properties that were tuned to correspond to those found in vivo. This new complex and controlled surface for cells to be cultured on is a tool, which will allow biologists to probe new questions and gain insight into the regulatory networks that control cell fate

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