Magnetic nanoparticles aid embryonic stem cell differentiation

Written by Adam Tarring

Researchers have used magnetic nanoparticles to allow for the mechanical control of embryonic stem cell differentiation.

Scientists led by researchers from the Université Paris Diderot (Paris, France) have discovered that by using magnetic nanoparticles, they could mechanically control embryonic stem cell (ESC) differentiation. Published in Nature Communications, the new method could mitigate the need for an external supporting matrix and allow researchers to stimulate the ESCs alongside their in vivo counterparts. This mechanical control was enough to drive the ESCs to differentiate towards the mesodermal cardiac pathway.

Before using the magnetic nanoparticles for the mechanical control of the ESCs, the researchers first tested whether the incorporation of the magnetic nanoparticles had an effect on how the ESCs functioned.  They monitored ESC metabolic activity, finding no loss of function when compared with control cells.

To assemble the cells, the ESCs were magnetized through the incorporation of magnetic nanoparticles, meaning the cells could then be rearranged and stacked using external magnets. First, the magnetized cells are trapped on a micromagnet, before a second mobile magnet traps the aggregate formed. The movement of the mobile magnet allows the mechanical control of the ESCs.

The researchers tested this mechanical control by imitating cardiac beating, which remarkably caused the ESCs to move towards the mesodermal cardiac pathway. These results demonstrate the role that purely mechanical factors can play in cell differentiation, with this ‘all-in-one’ approach to building and manipulating tissue showing promise for new regenerative approaches . 

Sources: Du V, Luciani N, Richard S et al. A 3D magnetic tissue stretcher for remote mechanical control of embryonic stem cell differentiation. Nat. Commun. 8(1):400 (2017);