We can use simple physical principals from nature as templates to manipulate the stem cell microenvironment. For example, molecular sequestering is driven by fundamental physical principles, and is also a common mechanism by which the extracellular matrix (ECM) locally regulates soluble growth factor concentrations. We have hypothesized that chemically well-defined cell culture environments can be used to develop ECM-mimicking (or “bioinspired”) ligands that influence stem cell behavior. Our bioinspired ligands have included growth factor sequestering ligands, proteoglycan sequestering ligands, and receptor-binding ligands. Our results demonstrate that bioinspired ligands can control diverse stem cell behaviors, including adhesion, proliferation, migration, phenotypic transformation, and lineage-specific differentiation.
Figure 1: Hydrogel spots bound and arrayed on a swelling hydrogel substrate.
Figure 2: human iPSCs co-cultured with MSCs in synthethic ECM form capillary networks (green: CD31, red: alpha-SMA, blue: DAPI)