Biocompatible materials that emulate living tissues can be used for tissue repair and regeneration. Polymer scaffolds, for example, mimic the network that connects cells and stimulates cell adhesion. They can also transport various cell types. Now, stem cells differentiated into liver-like cells from bone marrow stem cells can be delivered to the liver using a fibrous polymer scaffold containing the peptide RGD, thanks to a technique developed by a team led by Andrew Wan at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) of A*STAR, Singapore.
To differentiate the stem cells, the researchers first cultured human liver cells in Petri dishes to form a cell layer covering the entire dish surface. Then, they added an ammonia solution to destroy the cultured cells while leaving intact the surrounding matrix, also called extracellular matrix (ECM). Finally, they placed the stem cells in the ECM-coated dishes and cultured them for one month to effectively induce their differentiation.
“Our research group at IBN has had a long-standing interest in using signals from the ECM to differentiate stem cells,” says Wan. “Compared to other approaches using growth factors, or their combinations to differentiate stem cells, we believe that our method may provide a more complete spectrum of signaling molecules.”
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