Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Stem Cells, Cellular Therapy & Biobanking
>
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

How a Silly Putty Ingredient Could Advance Stem Cell Therapies

Published: Thursday, April 17, 2014
Last Updated: Thursday, April 17, 2014
Bookmark and Share
The sponginess of the environment where human embryonic stem cells are growing affects the type of specialized cells they eventually become.

The University of Michigan researchers coaxed human embryonic stem cells to turn into working spinal cord cells more efficiently by growing the cells on a soft, utrafine carpet made of a key ingredient in Silly Putty. Their study is published online at Nature Materials on April 13.

This research is the first to directly link physical, as opposed to chemical, signals to human embryonic stem cell differentiation. Differentiation is the process of the source cells morphing into the body's more than 200 cell types that become muscle, bone, nerves and organs, for example.

Jianping Fu, U-M assistant professor of mechanical engineering, says the findings raise the possibility of a more efficient way to guide stem cells to differentiate and potentially provide therapies for diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease), Huntington's or Alzheimer's.

In the specially engineered growth system—the 'carpets' Fu and his colleagues designed—microscopic posts of the Silly Putty component polydimethylsiloxane serve as the threads. By varying the post height, the researchers can adjust the stiffness of the surface they grow cells on. Shorter posts are more rigid—like an industrial carpet. Taller ones are softer—more plush.

The team found that stem cells they grew on the tall, softer micropost carpets turned into nerve cells much faster and more often than those they grew on the stiffer surfaces. After 23 days, the colonies of spinal cord cells—motor neurons that control how muscles move—that grew on the softer micropost carpets were four times more pure and 10 times larger than those growing on either traditional plates or rigid carpets.

"This is extremely exciting," Fu said. "To realize promising clinical applications of human embryonic stem cells, we need a better culture system that can reliably produce more target cells that function well. Our approach is a big step in that direction, by using synthetic microengineered surfaces to control mechanical environmental signals."

Fu is collaborating with doctors at the U-M Medical School. Eva Feldman, the Russell N. DeJong Professor of Neurology, studies amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. It paralyzes patients as it kills motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord.

Researchers like Feldman believe stem cell therapies—both from embryonic and adult varieties—might help patients grow new nerve cells. She's using Fu's technique to try to make fresh neurons from patients' own cells. At this point, they're examining how and whether the process could work, and they hope to try it in humans in the future.

"Professor Fu and colleagues have developed an innovative method of generating high-yield and high-purity motor neurons from stem cells," Feldman said. "For ALS, discoveries like this provide tools for modeling disease in the laboratory and for developing cell-replacement therapies."

Fu's findings go deeper than cell counts. The researchers verified that the new motor neurons they obtained on soft micropost carpets showed electrical behaviors comparable to those of neurons in the human body. They also identified a signaling pathway involved in regulating the mechanically sensitive behaviors. A signaling pathway is a route through which proteins ferry chemical messages from the cell's borders to deep inside it. The pathway they zeroed in on, called Hippo/YAP, is also involved in controlling organ size and both causing and preventing tumor growth.

Fu says his findings could also provide insights into how embryonic stem cells differentiate in the body.

"Our work suggests that physical signals in the cell environment are important in neural patterning, a process where nerve cells become specialized for their specific functions based on their physical location in the body," he said.

The paper is titled "Hippo/YAP-mediated rigidity-dependent motor neuron differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells." Fu collaborated with researchers at the School of Dentistry and the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology in the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.


Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,500+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,800+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Genetic Pathway for Chronic Kidney Disease Revealed
Findings from the study open the door to early treatment for millions at risk for CKD.
Monday, June 23, 2014
A Better Brain Implant: Slim Electrode Cozies up to Single Neurons
A thin, flexible electrode developed at the University of Michigan is 10 times smaller than the nearest competition and could make long-term measurements of neural activity practical at last.
Monday, November 12, 2012
Stem Cell Therapy Could Offer New Hope for Defects and Injuries to Head, Mouth
Researchers insert a stem cell-soaked sponge into the injury site to stimulate bone growth. The new bone, can then support dental implants which look identical to real teeth.
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Researchers Find Driver of Breast Cancer Stem Cell Metastasis
Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have found that a cancer gene linked to aggressive spread of the disease promotes breast cancer stem cells.
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
U-M Researchers Create Reprogrammed Stem Cells for Disease Studies
Researchers to study the origin and progression of various diseases and to search for new treatments by using iPS cells with human embryonic stem cells.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
U-M Study: Herceptin Targets Breast Cancer Stem Cells
The gene, HER2, causes cancer stem cells to multiply and spread, explaining why HER2 has been linked to a more aggressive type of breast cancer.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
U-M Researchers Dispute Widely Held Ideas About Stem Cells
How do adult stem cells protect themselves from accumulating genetic mutations that can lead to cancer?
Thursday, August 30, 2007
U-M Team Identifies Gene that Regulates Blood-Forming Fetal Stem Cells
A University of Michigan study adds to mounting evidence that stem cells in the developing fetus are distinct from both embryonic and adult stem cells.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Engineering the Heart Piece by Piece
U-M scientists see great promise in cardiac tissue engineering, but hurdles remain before lab-grown muscle is ready for patients
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Arresting Stem Cells may Trump Tumor Shrinkage in Rating Cancer Treatments, Researcher Says
University of Michigan researcher is working with the NCI to help find simpler ways of identifying the activity of stem cells within a tumor and testing its relation to whether the patient survives or dies.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Type of Stem Cell Found to Reside in Transplanted Lungs
University of Michigan Health System researchers says that there findings could help with transplant rejection.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Michigan Team Singles Out Cancer Stem Cells for Attack
Researchers find a way to kill cancer stem cells without harming the normal stem cells in the same tissue.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Scientific News
The Mending Tissue - Cellular Instructions for Tissue Repair
NUS-led collaborative study identifies universal mechanism that explains how tissue shape regulates physiological processes such as wound healing and embryo development.
Tissue Bank Pays Dividends for Brain Cancer Research
Checking what’s in the bank – the Brisbane Breast Bank, that is – has paid dividends for UQ cancer researchers.
iPS Cells Discover Drug Target for Muscle Disease
Researchers have designed a model that reprograms fibroblasts to the early stages of their differentiation into intact muscle cells in a step towards a therapeutic for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Engineered Hot Fat Implants Reduce Weight Gain
Scientists at UC Berkeley have developed a novel way to engineer the growth and expansion of energy-burning “good” fat, and then found that this fat helped reduce weight gain and lower blood glucose levels in mice.
Transplanted Stem Cells Can Benefit Retinal Disease Sufferers
Tests on animal models show that MSCs secrete growth factors that suppress causes of diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration.
MRI Scanners Can Steer Therapeutics to Specific Target Sites
Scientists from the University of Sheffield have discovered MRI scanners, normally used to produce images, can steer cell-based, tumour busting therapies to specific target sites in the body.
Team Finds Early Inflammatory Response Paralyzes T Cells
Findings could have enormous implications for immunotherapy, autoimmune disorders, transplants and other aspects of immunity.
Early Detection of Lung Cancer
The University of Manchester has signed a collaboration agreement with Abcodia to perform proteomics studies on a cohort of non-small cell lung cancer cases from the UKCTOCS biobank, with the aim of discovering new blood-based biomarkers for earlier detection of the disease.
Researchers Identify Drug Candidate for Skin, Hair Regeneration
Formerly undiscovered role of protein may lead to the development of new medications that stimulate hair and skin regeneration in trauma or burn victims.
Basis for New Treatment Options for a Fatal Leukemia in Children Revealed
Detailed molecular analyses allow new insights into the function of tumour cells and options for new treatments.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,500+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,800+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FREE!