Biomaterials: Japan has developed a matrix material to control stem cell differentiation

The tissue regenerative materials division of the international research center for nanomaterials at the national institute of materials science in Japan has successfully developed a matrix material that can control stem cell differentiation for use in regenerative medicine. The results were published online December 15, 2011, in the journal Biomaterials.

To make regenerative medicine become a reality, stem cells must be able to be induced to differentiate into specific cell types in order to rebuild the tissues or organs needed to treat diseases or defects. Technology to control stem cell differentiation is the most critical aspect of this process. Now attention is being paid to the role of the extracellular matrix, which surrounds stem cells in the body, in influencing their differentiation. However, because the extracellular matrix surrounding a differentiating cell is very complex, and depending on the differentiation stage it can undergo structural changes, it is difficult to mimic the matrix that develops during differentiation.

In this study, the team successfully created two types of matrix materials that mimic the extracellular matrix that changes dynamically during stem cell differentiation. They are "stepwise osteogenesis -- mimicking king matrix" and "stepwise adipogenesis -- mimicking king matrix", respectively mimicking the extracellular matrix of osteoblast and fat cell differentiation from mesenchymal stem cells.

Using these two techniques, stepwise tissue development-mimicking matrix, the researchers successfully controlled the osteogenic and lipogenic differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells. These results suggest that the extracellular matrix plays an important role in controlling the osteogenesis and lipogenesis balance of mesenchymal stem cells.

In the future, researchers expect this stage-by-stage tissue development to mimic the role of the extracellular matrix in the differentiation of induced pluripotent cells, embryonic stem cells, and other stem cells used in regenerative medicine. These materials could also be used to elucidate the pathogenesis of osteoporosis, which may be caused by the imbalance between osteogenic differentiation and lipogenic differentiation.
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