One of the approaches to further improve the therapeutic potential of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) has been to develop novel systems for improved proliferation and differentiation. Scaffolds have recently emerged as a potent substrate system for such studies, and a recent slew of papers describes some interesting advances.
A recent study in Biomaterials Science by Stephanie Willert’s lab at the University of Victoria evaluated two different protocols for the differentiation of murine iPSCs into neurons targeting spinal cord injury, after which the neurons were seeded onto fibrin scaffolds to further promote their differentiation. The protocols differend in the length of time the cells were treated prior to seeding onto scaffolds. The scaffold-seeding period lasted 14 days. While this is a short-term study, the authors showed that neurons were successfully formed in fibrin scaffolds during the study period, supporting their argument that the 3D environment provided by the scaffolds promoted more efficient differentiation of iPSCs.
Elsewhere, another study by Jin Nam’s lab at the University of California-Riverside published in Biomaterials investigated a more fundamental set of physicochemical parameters related to the effect of scaffolds on cultured iPSCs: the surface chemistry being the main one. They used electrospun collagen scaffolds as the model system, and found that parameters such as surface chemistry and sphericity significantly affect the proliferation of iPSCs. Moreover, by looking at the genetic profile, they found that colony morphology was significantly affected based on the physical characteristics of the scaffolds. While scaffolds are thought to promote the proliferation of stem cells by providing a 3D environment that is closer to the native environment in vivo, this paper appears to suggest that controlling the physical properties – of three-dimensionality – of the scaffolds, is of critical importance.
Elsewhere, Kevin Healy and colleagues at the University of California San Francisco investigated the theoretical aspects of iPSC contractility and the effect of different surfaces – scaffolds that give rise to different types of three dimensions – on the biological behavior of these cells. Using an isogenic iPSC line harboring the genetically encoded calcium indicator GCaMP6f the authors analyzed the contractility of the cells in different three-dimensional environments and developed software that enables the prediction and modeling of such behavior. For more on their study, see here.
These papers, though only a limited selection of recent literature, reflect the current efforts aimed at better improving the environment for the culture and differentiation of iPSCs toward new therapies.
Developments in the scaffold arena are particularly close to us at Akron – our expertise in development of novel scaffold-based systems based on electrospun nanofibers now encompasses a growing list of materials, including collagen, PCA, PLGA and many others, including composite materials, and allows the addition of compounds such as antibiotics and proteins which further enhance the 3D construct. If you would like to learn more about our expertise or have any questions about any applications, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.