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Stem cells grow on 3-D substrates


Image shows where and how hard a bone-like cell is pulling on the surrounding gel

This 3-D traction force microscopy image shows where and how hard a bone-like cell is pulling on the surrounding gel.

The field of regenerative medicine--the process of replacing, engineering or regenerating human cells, tissues or organs to restore or establish normal function--holds great promise, propelled by greater understanding of how stem cells differentiate themselves into many of the bodys different cell types. But clinical applications in the field have been slow to materialize, partially owing to difficulties in replicating the conditions these cells naturally experience.

A team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania has generated new insight on how a stem cells environment influences what type of cell it will become. They have shown that whether human mesenchymal stem cells turn into fat or bone cells depends partially on how well they can "grip" the material they are growing in. The researchers expect these results to help in developing a better fundamental understanding of how to engineer tissues using stem cells.

This research was supported in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation. To learn more about this research see the Penn news story Penn Researchers Show Stem Cell Fate Depends on "Grip." (Date of Image: May 2012)

Credit: Sudhir Khetan

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