Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Squeezing cells into stem cells

11.01.2016

EPFL scientists have developed a new method that turns cells into stem cells by "squeezing" them. The method paves the way for large-scale production of stem cells for medical purposes.


Here is a scheme of an iPSC colony emerging in a 3-D gel (made with DEMCON Nymus 3-D).

Credit: Matthias Lutolf (EPFL)

Stem cells are now at the cutting edge of modern medicine. They can transform into a cells of different organs, offering new ways to treat a range of injuries and diseases from Parkinson's to diabetes. But producing the right type of stem cells in a standardized manner is still a serious challenge. EPFL scientists have now developed a gel that boosts the ability of normal cells to revert into stem cells by simply "squeezing" them into shape. Published in Nature Materials, the new technique can also be easily scaled up to produce stem cells for various applications on an industrial scale.

There are different types of stem cells, but the ones that are of particular medical interest are the so-called "induced pluripotent stem cells" or iPSCs. These are derived from mature, adult cells that have been genetically reprogrammed to behave like stem cells (which is why they are "induced"). iPSCs can then be regrown into a whole range of different cells types, e.g. liver, pancreatic, lung, skin etc.

... more about:
»EPFL »Nature Materials »stem cells

There have been many attempts to design a standardized method for generating such stem cells. But even the most successful methods turn out to not be very effective, especially for use on a large scale. A major issue is that existing techniques use the two-dimensional environment of a petri dish or cell culture flask, whereas cells in the body exist in a three-dimensional world.

The lab of Matthias Lutolf at EPFL has now developed a new method that may help to overcome these challenges. The approach uses a three-dimensional cell culture system. Normal cells are placed inside a gel that contains normal growth nutrients. "We try to simulate the three-dimensional environment of a living tissue and see how it would influence stem cell behavior," explains Lutolf. "But soon we were surprised to see that cell reprogramming is also influenced by the surrounding microenvironment." The microenvironment in this case, is the gel.

The researchers discovered that they could reprogram the cells faster and more efficiently than current methods by simply adjusting the composition - and hence the stiffness and density - of the surrounding gel. As a result, the gel exerts different forces on the cells, essentially "squeezing" them.

As a new phenomenon, this is not entirely understood. However, the scientists propose that the three-dimensional environment is key to this process, generating mechanical signals that work together with genetic factors to make the cell easier to transform into a stem cell.

"Each cell type may have a 'sweet spot' of physical and chemical factors that offer the most efficient transformation," says Lutolf. "Once you find it, it is a matter of resources and time to create stem cells on a larger scale."

The greater impact of this discovery is possibly quantity. The technique can be applied to a large number of cells to produce stem cells on an industrial scale. Lutolf's lab is looking into this, but their main focus is to better understand the phenomenon, and to find the 'sweet spots' for other cell types.

###

This work included a collaboration between EPFL's Institute of Bioengineering, Core Facility PTECH, and Institute of Chemical Sciences and Engineering. It was funded by the EU (Framework 7; PluriMes), SystemsX.ch (StoNets), the European Research Council, and the Swiss National Science Foundation (Singergia).

Reference

Caiazzo M, Okawa Y, Ranga A, Piersigilli A, Tabata Y, Lutolf MP. Defined three-dimensional microenvironments boost the induction of stem cell pluripotency. Nature Materials 11 January 2016. DOI: 10.1038/nmat4536

Media Contact

Nik Papageorgiou
n.papageorgiou@epfl.ch
41-216-932-105

 @EPFL_en

http://www.epfl.ch/index.en.html 

Nik Papageorgiou | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: EPFL Nature Materials stem cells

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Helping to Transport Proteins Inside the Cell
21.11.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht UNH researchers create a more effective hydrogel for healing wounds
21.11.2018 | University of New Hampshire

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First diode for magnetic fields

Innsbruck quantum physicists have constructed a diode for magnetic fields and then tested it in the laboratory. The device, developed by the research groups led by the theorist Oriol Romero-Isart and the experimental physicist Gerhard Kirchmair, could open up a number of new applications.

Electric diodes are essential electronic components that conduct electricity in one direction but prevent conduction in the opposite one. They are found at the...

Im Focus: Nonstop Tranport of Cargo in Nanomachines

Max Planck researchers revel the nano-structure of molecular trains and the reason for smooth transport in cellular antennas.

Moving around, sensing the extracellular environment, and signaling to other cells are important for a cell to function properly. Responsible for those tasks...

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Optical Coherence Tomography: German-Japanese Research Alliance hosted Medical Imaging Conference

19.11.2018 | Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helping to Transport Proteins Inside the Cell

21.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Meta-surface corrects for chromatic aberrations across all kinds of lenses

21.11.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Removing toxic mercury from contaminated water

21.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>