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 World’s Largest Study on Allergic Rhinitis Reveals new Risk Genes
17.07.2018 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt

nachricht Plant mothers talk to their embryos via the hormone auxin
17.07.2018 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria

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 evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microscopic trampoline may help create networks of quantum computers

17.07.2018 | Information Technology

In borophene, boundaries are no barrier

17.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

The role of Sodium for the Enhancement of Solar Cells

17.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>